Nerds v. Geeks?

I was actually inspired to ask the following question by a TV commercial I saw once a few years back. It was for a home computer, I believe. And the spokesman said proudly he was a geek, not a nerd. And geeks “get things done” he said.

Is there a difference between the terms “nerd” and “geek”. (This is purely a question about definitions. I don’t want this to turn into a discussion of which group is better.)

Yes, I did look in my unabridged dictionary. And it wasn’t much help. We all know what a nerd is (basically) I think. They are bookish and introverted. But in the etymology, it said it was rhyming slang for “turd”. What does that mean?

Geek apparently once meant a freak, a side show. Again, what on earth could that mean for its modern definition?

This is a serious question. I am not drunk or high as I type this†. And as I said, I want a solid definition, of the differences between the terms. Nothing more.


†I’ve never taken illegal drugs anyways, although I do imbibe. And as I said, that has nothing to do with my question. So no sarcasm, please:).

As I understand it, the difference between nerds and geeks is that, while they’re both typically introverted and somewhat obsessive, geeks have better social skills than nerds. So, for instance, on the Big Bang Theory, Leonard is a geek while Sheldon is a nerd.

That’s just my basic understanding, though. Take it with a grain of salt.

Here you go.

By the original definition, a geek was a type of sideshow performer who did things that anyone could do, but that most people wouldn’t. Things like biting the heads off of live chickens, sticking skewers through their body, that sort of thing. So yes, by that definition, you could certainly say that geeks “get things done”, but that’s probably not a good thing.

In modern usage, my impression is that “nerd” and “geek” both imply a certain level of obsessiveness, but that “nerd” additionally implies a level of knowledge or competence that “geek” does not.

Neither one has anything to do with social ineptitude. While it is true that nerds often have difficulty relating to non-nerds, we relate to each other just fine, and non-nerds in turn have a hard time relating to us. The only reason this was ever seen as “ineptitude” is because non-nerds outnumber nerds by a significant margin, so it used to be especially rare to see nerds relate to each other, but common to see them attempting to relate to non-nerds. Nowadays, though, thanks largely to the Internet, it’s become much easier for us to find each other.

Everyone seems to call themselves a geek now. The word lost all meaning, if it ever had any.

I think “nerd” implies some level of academic or book learning ability, while “geek” just requires obsessiveness.

Nerdism is more associated with social awkwardness. It goes back to the old pocket protector stereotype. Geekdon is a newer concept, more about obsession I think, and more about application. A nerd could be very knowledgeable, but the Professor on Gilligan’s Island actually made stuff, making more of a geek.

Nerds are science/computer types, geeks are Doctor Who fans and avid comic book readers.

I’m more of a nerd but I don’t see why it has to be a competition. Can’t we all just get along?

Steken’s Venn diagram is a good explanation of the difference. xkcd also has a take on it.

Steken’s Venn diagram is perfect. Nerds know a lot and are obsessed with a subject but are usually pretty normal. Geeks are socially inept nerds.

That’s not what the diagram says.

You have that backwards.

Geeks are more obsessed with art (film, comics, TV, gamrs) while nerds are more obsessed with science. Both seem good at technology though.

You’re right…Sorry… :smack:

My definition is the opposite of many here: geeks and nerds are anyone obsessed about any topic. However, to be a geek there is a strong implication of knowledge with no implication of social awkwardness, which is the opposite for a nerd. You can even be a baseball nerd if you talk about it so much that everyone gets bored of you, but you don’t have to actually know anything about stats etc. Whereas you can be a baseball geek if you know your stats and players backwards and forward but don’t necessarily display your obsession with it to the exclusion of other social interactions. Of course you can be both at once.

If I’m understanding you correctly, that seems to be what most people (from what I see) in this thread are saying. Geek = knowledge + obsessiveness. Nerd = that + social awkwardness. As in the Venn diagram referenced.

I’ve heard that difference, but in actual usage, it doesn’t seem to me that people really differentiate between the two and they are, for the most part, synonymous. Both words are also more acceptable than they were when I was a kid. They were generally pejoratives. Now, they seem to have been reclaimed and neutral to even positive in some cases.

10 years ago I would have said that a nerd is somebody who enjoys esoteric things, while a geek is somebody who enjoys inaccessible things. A nerd enjoys dungeons and dragons, a geek enjoys particle physics.

Hence the social awkwardness - it’s a lot harder to justify being into D&D.

Or at least it was 10 years ago.

The world is rapidly changing for geeks and nerds, and these kinds of distinctions are becoming less important.