plural nerds
: a person devoted to intellectual, academic, or technical pursuits or interests
This book is essential reading for every hacker, computer nerd, systems analyst, middle manager or computer-store browser enamored of computer wizardry.William Stockton
He's happy to be thought of as a nerd with street cred. He [Neil deGrasse Tyson] shines best in impromptu settings like talk shows or needling cosmologists at the annual Asimov debates … about nothingness or alternate universes.Dennis Overbye
Will a dab of Shakespeare daintily perfume my wit or just sound like the literary belching of a compulsive nerd?Gary Taylor
also : a person preoccupied with or devoted to a particular activity or field of interest
At college she was a theater nerd. … "I wasn't afraid to jam, with the windows down, to Phantom of the Opera," she [Kristen Bell] says. Troy Patterson
Working beside him is his partner, Ron Johnson, another self-described snow nerdDavid Quammen
: an unstylish or socially awkward person
[Sitcom character Steven Q.] Urkel is loaded with everything in the nerd's bag of tics: suspenders, spectacles, squeaks, snorts, and scrawniness.Shelley Levitt
nerdiness noun
With his brother Hank he heads a YouTube channel with 2 million subscribers and an organization … that advances social causes and generally celebrates nerdiness. Lev Grossman
nerdish adjective
… a nerdish type in one corner was madly tapping the keys of a laptop computer. Ian Stewart
nerdy adjective
He and his two pals aren't even nerdy enough to join the debate team or the science club, but they dote on superhero comic books. Richard Alleva

Did you know?

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 dresses like a nerd. was such a nerd in college that she spent Saturday nights at the library
Recent Examples on the Web There’s a thin line between a grammar nerd and a grammar nazi. Kevin Fisher-paulson, San Francisco Chronicle, 28 Feb. 2023 Spikes is a movie nerd who has dedicated a chunk of his career to helping theatres survive the age of smartphones and streaming. Sheelah Kolhatkar, The New Yorker, 27 Feb. 2023 Mike Sutton Mike Sutton is an editor, writer, test driver, and general car nerd who has contributed to Car and Driver's reverent and irreverent passion for the automobile since 2008. Mike Sutton, Car and Driver, 27 Feb. 2023 Illuminating a dark room full of headcrab zombies with pools of energy left over by the tau cannon is enough to fully send a nostalgic nerd like myself. Antonio G. Di Benedetto, The Verge, 23 Feb. 2023 The actor — better known as math nerd Kevin G — was also really into pottery. Jessica Wang,, 9 Feb. 2023 This surreal sitcom was like nothing else on TV, and featured a group of horror-nerd friends who were trying to build a business that fabricated scary situations for clients. Jacob Linden, Country Living, 7 Feb. 2023 The Way of Water may not provoke dissent but only because James Cameron’s politics are so buried beneath his tech-nerd inanity that the movie serves as distraction from the distraction of Ukraine. Armond White, National Review, 27 Jan. 2023 There was nerd rejoicing at the news that Apple plans to make Mac laptops with touch screens for the first time. Shira Ovide, Washington Post, 20 Jan. 2023 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'nerd.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


perhaps from nerd, a creature in the children's book If I Ran the Zoo (1950) by Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel)

First Known Use

1951, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of nerd was in 1951

Dictionary Entries Near nerd

Cite this Entry

“Nerd.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Mar. 2023.

Kids Definition


: an unstylish, unattractive, or socially awkward person
: a person slavishly devoted to intellectual or academic pursuits
nerdy adjective

More from Merriam-Webster on nerd

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