Sunday, June 23, 2024





1. a person devoted to intellectual, academic, or technical pursuits or interests

2. a person preoccupied with or devoted to a particular activity or field of interest

3. an unstylish or socially awkward person


The first documented appearance of the word nerd is as the name of a creature in Dr. Seuss's book If I Ran the Zoo (1950), in which the narrator Gerald McGrew claims that he would collect "a Nerkle, a Nerd, and a Seersucker too" for his imaginary zoo.

The slang meaning of the term dates to 1951. That year, Newsweek magazine reported on its popular use as a synonym for drip or square in Detroit, Michigan. By the early 1960s, usage of the term had spread throughout the United States, and even as far as Scotland. At some point, the word took on connotations of bookishness and social ineptitude.

An alternate spelling, as nurd or gnurd, also began to appear in the mid-1960s, or early 1970s. Author Philip K. Dick claimed to have coined the "nurd" spelling in 1973, but its first recorded use appeared in a 1965 student publication at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Oral tradition there holds that the word is derived from knurd (drunk spelled backwards), which was used to describe people who studied rather than partied. The term gnurd (spelled with the "g") was in use at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) by the year 1965.

According to Online Etymology Dictionary, the word is an alteration of the 1940s term "nert " (meaning "stupid or crazy person"), which is in itself an alteration of "nut" (nutcase).

The term was popularised in the 1970s by its heavy use in the sitcom Happy Days.

Stereotypical nerd appearance, often lampooned in caricatures, can include very large glasses, dental braces, buck teeth, severe acne and pants worn high at the waist.



1. a digital-technology expert or enthusiast (a term of pride as self-reference, but often used disparagingly by others).

2. a person who has excessive enthusiasm for and some expertise about a specialised subject or activity:

3. a peculiar person, especially one who is perceived to be overly intellectual, unfashionable, or socially awkward.

4. a carnival performer who performs sensationally morbid or disgusting acts, as biting off the head of a live chicken.


The word dates to the sixteenth century when it had the sense of a fool or simpleton. It was generally spelled geck, with variations being common.

Shakespeare uses the word in two of his plays. In Twelfth Night, composed c.1601 and first published in the 1623 First Folio, the character of Malvolio, a servant, uses it in speaking to Olivia, his mistress:

Why haue you suffer’d me to be imprison’d,
Kept in a darke house, visited by the Priest,
And made the most notorious gecke and gull
That ere inuention plaid on? Tell me why?

And in Cymbelene, which was first staged no later than 1611, Sicilius Leonatus uses the word in speaking to Posthumus, his son:

Why did you suffer Iachimo, slight thing of Italy, To taint his nobler hart & brain, with needlesse ielousy, And to become the geeke and scorne o’th’others vilany?

This general sense of a worthless or despised individual persisted through the nineteenth century. In the latter half of that century geek starts appearing in American slang. The Oxford English Dictionary treats the British geck and the American geek as distinct words, presumably because of the difference in pronunciation.

In the early twentieth century, the American term developed a specific meaning in the carnival or circus world, that of a performer who would eat live animals or do other repellant or painful things on stage—or more usually feign doing so.

Another specialised sense, more common than the carnival sense at the time but less well known today, is that of a weak man, especially one prone to various ailments or even hypoondria.

This sub-sense of a weak and sickly man continued well into the 1950s, often in the phrase poor geek. And it is probably from this sub-sense that the sense of an overly bookish, non-athletically inclined student developed. Both the Oxford English Dictionary and Green’s Dictionary of Slang list the first use of this studious sense as being by writer Jack Kerouac in a 1 October 1957 letter to Allen Ginsberg.

The use of geek to mean a studious student would not become common until the 1980s.

Early use of the studious sense was often in the slang of black youth, before it transferred over to university slang in general.

With the advent of the personal computer in the early 1980s, the studious sense of geek became attached to the world of high-tech.

The tech sense started out as a negative one but by the late 1990s geek would be reclaimed and used proudly by computer engineers, coders, and other technical specialists.





A person who is conventional and old-fashioned, similar to a fuddy-duddy.


The English word square dates to the 13th century and derives from the Old French esquarre. By the 1570s, it was in use in reference to someone or something honest or fair. This positive sense is preserved in phrases such as "fair and square", meaning something done in an honest and straightforward manner, and "square deal", meaning an outcome equitable to all sides. 

The sense of square as a derogatory reference to someone conventional or old-fashioned dates to the jazz scene of the 1940s; the first known reference is from 1944. There it applied to someone who failed to appreciate the medium of jazz, or more broadly, someone whose tastes were out of date and out of touch.

A common phrase "be there or be square." implies that a 'square' is the opposite of someone who is a 'round'. This is a play on words, the idea being that a square is someone who is never around, regularly stays home, and avoids social gatherings, especially unchaperoned gatherings where illegal activities might take place, for fear of getting in trouble, thus indicating that if you are not "around", you are square.

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