What's the difference between a Geek and a Nerd?

This is inspired by a side conversation in a recent Pit thread.

What’s the difference, in your opinion? IS there a difference?

I’ve always used the maxim “A geek is a nerd with social skills,” with the further definition of nerd being someone who takes a deep, sometimes obsessive interest in a subject; almost always intellectual, often relating to technology but not necessarily. One can be a music geek/nerd or even a sports geek/nerd (those fans who obsess over player stats and participate in fantasy leagues). A nerd makes that subject their world and assumes other people live in said world, often leading to embarrassing or awkward situations, while geeks recognize that other people have their own interests and can relate to them on a level outside that subject.

What’s your take?

There are the same, but a nerd has successfully adapted some nerdy interest into a skill set that is marketable.

Neither has an over-abundance of social skill.

There’s no difference. Just people wanting to seem like they know a special lingo that others don’t.

I think of a nerd as being a person without grace or social skills, and a geek as a person obsessed with some skill, who acquires that skill instead of working on social skills.

The two overlap, but are not the same: geekishness is more voluntary than nerdishness. Geekishness has some upside, but nerdishness is a prison.

I always thought of it this way. Nerds are more inclined towards books, reading, literature, history, stuff like that, while geeks are more numbers-oriented and prefer hobbies that are more specific than reading.

I cheerfully class myself as a nerd by the way, and I don’t have any problems with social skills. I think it’s about time we stopped thinking of these two terms as negative. There’s definitely nothing wrong with being a book nerd or a music geek provided you’re not obnoxious about it.

Old joke:

“Geek” used to be a four-letter word. Now it’s a high five-figure word.

Geeks are obsessives. Nerds are obsessive scholars. Spazzes are high-strung. Dorks are more socially inept than nerds or geeks. And dweebs tinker with electronics.

Did I get 'em all?

Comedian/actor Patten Oswald said this about the difference in a Wired magazine interview

It’s as good an answer as I’ve ever seen.

I always broke it down like this:

There is a huge party going on.

The nerd will skip the party because he’s working at his lab, into the night.

The geek will go to the party, bring his own CDs of obscure bands nobody will appreciate, hang out near the snacks all night, hit on girls to minimal success, but still have a decent time.

The dork will crash the party and end up overflowing the toilet in the house.

This works well for me too. It’s like a Nerd is a flaming, in the closet geek. He knows it, everyone around him know it but he won’t admit it, and can’t be happy until he does. Of course different people use the words differnetly, and defintion varies on these words more than most.

I would have said that the “deep, sometimes obsessive interest” is the major characteristic of the geek, not the nerd. The geek need not necessarily have more brains or fewer social skills than the average person, but his/her obsessive interest is likely to be one that has some appeal to the intellect.

The nerd is someone whose intellectual gifts far outweigh his physical and social gifts. He (nerds tend to be male) is the opposite of the jock, the popular kid, or the BMOC.

The nerd and the geek each live in a world of their own. In the case of the geek, that world is often the creation of another person (e.g. George Lucas, Joss Whedon, or Stan Lee), while in the case of the nerd, that world is more abstract (e.g. the world of books or numbers or test tubes).
After thinking about the question on my own for a little while, I looked up the Wikipedia articles on geeks and nerds and found some interesting stuff, including the following:

To me, a dork is a nerd without intelligence.

A nerd is a geek without social skills or necessarily intelligence.

A geek is anyone willingly very knowledgable over anything that the majority of people (according to whomever is doing the classification) either just don’t get or aren’t intelligent enough to know. But some geeks might know when to stop bringing up their favorite subject at a party, but they might still not care. (Favorite quote of computer club in HS when admonished for stupid antics by CS teacher: “I DO have social skills. Why do I need to use them HERE?”)

So, you can be a nerd and a dork at the same time, and a nerd and a geek at the same time, since nerd is irrespective of intelligence levels, but dork and geek are mutually exclusive.

The distinction between the two is the same distinction that rabbits give each other in order to tell each other apart.

The wolf just sees two rabbits; the distinction is meaningless to him.

My Forensics team has t-shirts that read (front) Speech Geek (back) at least we’re not Band nerds!

My take is pretty similar to the OP: both the geek and the nerd are of fairly high intelligence and take a very strong interest/passion in certain things. The difference is that the nerd is socially inept to the point where he flat out doesn’t know or doesn’t care. The nerd might find himself wanting a beer on a Saturday night (yes, it does happen), so he’ll walk into the nearest bar (which happens to be a trendy dive), brush past a crowd of urban hipsters, sit down at a table, pull out a deck of Magic: The Gathering cards, and start playing against himself. If a hipster decided to ironically engage the nerd in conversation, the nerd would be happy to spend the next hour explaining the game.

The geek may or may not have particularly good social skills, but he’s at least aware enough to know when he’s being mocked. In the same bar, even the most socially-inept geek would sit quietly in the corner sipping his beer.

The dork has the nerd’s social skills but not the intellect. Napoleon Dynamite is the perfect example.

The above example of the nerd in the bar my sound far-fetched, but I actually witnessed this exact thing last weekend!

What about wonks, or did that word go out with the Clinton administration?

This is all very interesting, but I seem to have a different definition than most of you.

A nerd to me is just someone who just isn’t “cool”-- wears white socks with black shoes, wears a short-sleeve dress shirt with a tie, gets his/her hair cut at Super Cuts, reads a lot, etc. A nerd is at the very least slightly above-average in intelligence, but not necessarily a genius or obsessed with being smart. They don’t necessarily lack social skills, except for the fact they don’t care what others think of them. Examples: Woody Allen, Rivers Cuomo, Richie Cunningham, Lisa Simpson.

A geek is someone who’s a gamer, into sci-fi/fantasy, a techie, and often doesn’t have much in the way of social skills. Cleanliness, health and etiquette are often (but not always) on the back-burner. Examples: most engineers, your average IT guy, people who dress up for movie premieres (Star Wars, Star Trek, LoTR, etc.), Comic Book Guy.

A dork is basically a nerd with less intelligence and social skills. Examples: Potsy Webber, most Harlan Williams characters, Ralph Wiggum and Milhouse Van Houten.

I’m going to echo what most people are saying.

Geek – Obsessively interested about some topic to the point of being annoying about about it, particularly fannish hobbies like gaming or comic books.

Nerd – Intelligent but lacking in social skills.

Consider the phrase “geeking out”. It means getting overly excited about some bit of trivia that is cool only to someone with detailed knowledge of a very narrow subject. “Nerding out” isn’t synonymous.

There’s often a lot of overlap between the two. Nerds tend toward geekiness and geeks tend toward nerdiness. But it’s entirely possible to be one without being the other.

Dork – Lacking in social skills, like a nerd, but stupid.

Wonk – A geek who is obsessed about something boring, like accountancy or public health policy.

Huh… I and my friends always defined nerds as geeks with social skills.

I’m surprised at how many varied answers there are, although I probably shouldn’t be.

Yes, to the couple of you who are scorning the question outright :p, the labels aren’t particularly meaningful in and of themselves, and people can hardly be compartmentalized that easily. I’m simply interested in people’s personal definitions of the words.

Sean Factotum, I like Oswalt’s answer, and it cuts a little closer to what I think is the distinction than the broader ‘social skills’. A geek tends to have more awareness of the world around him, even if he doesn’t really care about it.