: a person often of an intellectual bent who is disliked
: an enthusiast or expert especially in a technological field or activity
computer geek
: a carnival performer often billed as a wild man whose act usually includes biting the head off a live chicken or snake
geekiness noun
geeky adjective

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Of Nerds, Geeks, and Dorks

Dork, when used to refer to a socially awkward or inept person, is a relatively recent word: our records indicate that it first appeared in writing in the 1960s. Two of its synonyms in this sense are likewise of fairly recent vintage. Nerd (typically used of a studious species of dork) dates from the 1950s; it was coined by Dr. Seuss in his 1950 book If I Ran the Zoo, although not in the sense that we use today. The usage of nerd is now often used in a neutral fashion to denote enthusiasm or expertise (theater nerd) or proudly as a self-identifying trait (word nerd). Geek became synonymous with nerd in the 1950s and has similarly seen increasing use with positive connotations, showing membership in a specialized group (film geek, beer geek) rather than social awkwardness. In its earliest meanings, geek referred to, among other things, a carnival performer who would bite the head off a live chicken, or other small animal, as part of an act.

Example Sentences

He was a real geek in high school. was quickly stereotyped as another computer geek
Recent Examples on the Web Their cumulative mood is resolutely frothy: poppy 1980s bops, eight-bit graphics, white-collar sharks gnawing on the geeks. Zachary Siegel, New York Times, 11 Apr. 2023 But weather geeks are quick to point to 1949 as an exception that makes the rule. Los Angeles Times, 24 Feb. 2023 Then again, not so long ago the entertainment industry thought scripted TVwas dead and superheroes had no audience beyond kids and comic book geeks. Mary Mcnamara, Los Angeles Times, 20 Apr. 2023 His beers became Golden Ticket that beer geeks would search out and discuss in online chatrooms. Hudson Lindenberger, Forbes, 20 Apr. 2023 Twitter took off first with geeks in San Francisco, and then with people in the tech-media-music orbit at South by Southwest in 2007. Willy Staley, New York Times, 18 Apr. 2023 To many Americans — except ardent car geeks — the number of cylinders in an engine may be of little concern. Peter Valdes-dapena, CNN, 15 Apr. 2023 No matter how many celebrities publicly wax poetic about their D&D campaigns with famous friends, many still associate it with freaks, geeks, and the cast of Stranger Things. David Fear, Rolling Stone, 11 Mar. 2023 The beloved sitcom, centered on an endearing gang of geeks, was on the air for 12 seasons. Grace Gavilanes, Peoplemag, 27 Feb. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'geek.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


probably from English dialect geek, geck fool, from Low German geck, from Middle Low German

First Known Use

1912, in the meaning defined at sense 3

Time Traveler
The first known use of geek was in 1912

Dictionary Entries Near geek

Cite this Entry

“Geek.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Jun. 2023.

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