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The word geek is a slang term, noting individuals as "a peculiar or otherwise odd person, especially one who is perceived to be overly obsessed with one or more things including those of intellectuality, electronics, etc." Formerly, the term referred to a carnival performer often billed as a wild man whose act usually includes biting the head off a live chicken, bat, snake or bugs. The 1976 edition of the American Heritage Dictionary included only the definition regarding geek shows.

This word comes from English dialect geek, geck: fool, freak; from Low German geck, from Middle Low German. The root geck still survives in Dutch gek: crazy, and in the Alsatianmarker word Gickeleshut: geek's hat, used in carnivals.


The definition of geek has changed considerably over time, and there is no longer a definitive meaning. The terms nerd, gimp, dweeb, dork and spod have similar meanings as geek, but many choose to identify different connotations amongst these terms, although the differences are disputed. In a 2007 interview on The Colbert Report, Richard Clarke said the difference between nerds and geeks is "geeks get it done." Julie Smith defined a geek as "a bright young man turned inward, poorly socialized, who felt so little kinship with his own planet that he routinely traveled to the ones invented by his favorite authors, who thought of that secret, dreamy place his computer took him to as cyberspace—somewhere exciting, a place more real than his own life, a land he could conquer, not a drab teenager's room in his parents' house.""Geeks in suits clothing" is phrase which has been used for IT technical stars which also have knowledge about business needs.

Other definitions include:
  • A derogatory reference to a person obsessed with intellectual pursuits for their own sake, who is also deficient in most other human attributes so as to impair the person's smooth operation within society.
  • A person who is interested in technology, especially computing and new media. Geeks are adept with computers, and use the term hacker in a positive way, though not all are hackers themselves.
  • A person who relates academic subjects to the real world outside of academic studies; for example, using multivariate calculus to determine how they should correctly optimize the dimensions of a pan to bake a cake.
  • A person who has chosen concentration rather than conformity; one who passionately pursues skill (especially technical skill) and imagination, not mainstream social acceptance.
  • A person with a devotion to something in a way that places him or her outside the mainstream. This could be due to the intensity, depth, or subject of their interest. This definition is very broad but because many of these interests have mainstream endorsement and acceptance, the inclusion of some genres as "geeky" is heavily debated. Persons have been labeled as or chosen to identify as physics geeks, mathematics geeks, engineering geeks, sci-fi geeks, computer geeks, various science geeks, movie and film geeks (cinephile), comic book geeks, theatre geeks, history geeks, music geeks, art geeks, philosophy geeks, literature geeks, historical reenactment geeks, 2012 geeks, video game geeks, and roleplay geeks.
  • A more recent school of thought sees Nerd as being a derogatory phrase, whilst Geek is simply a description. It is taken to be someone who is an enthusiast, often in things outside of the mainstream spectrum, of note is that in this definition, there is no reference to being socially inept in the slightest.

Reclamation and self-identification

Although being described as a geek tends to be an insult, the term has recently become more complimentary, or even a badge of honor, within particular fields. This is particularly evident in the technical disciplines, where the term is now often a compliment, denoting extraordinary skill. Nerd Pride Day has been observed on May 25 in Spainmarker since 2006. (May 25 being the world premiere date of Star Wars and also Towel Day) The holiday promotes the right to be nerdy or geeky, and to express it in public without shame. A new convention, Geek.Kon, has sprung up in Madison, Wisconsin with a purpose to celebrate all things geek. The website BoardGameGeek is an online community of boardgamers who identify themselves as geeks at game conventions; they call their website "The Geek," for short. Technical support services such as Geek Squad, Geeks on Call and Dial-a-Geek use the term geek to signify helpful technical abilities. In recent history, some geeks have cultivated a geek culture, such as geek humor and obscure references on T-shirts. The so-called geek chic trend is a deliberate affectation of geek or nerd traits as a fashion statement. Nonetheless, the derogatory definition of geeks remains that of a person engrossed in his area of interest at the cost of social skills, personal hygiene and status.

Geek chic

"Geek chic" refers to the embracing of stereotypically unpopular "geek" characteristics such as (taped) glasses, comic books, and video games.

It is highly debatable whether this trend actually means that "real geeks" are more popular than they were previously, or if it merely represents a superficial addition of "nerdy" elements to current fashion trends. Many elements that arguably define "geekiness", such as varying degrees of social awkwardness, mathematical ability, strong interest in science and/or science fiction and fantasy, and varying degrees of disinterest in one's personal appearance, remain unfashionable. Similar trends have often occurred in the past; for example, Frenchmarker Orientalism and exoticism of the 19th century incorporated visual elements from Asian and African cultures, but did not necessarily imply that people from these cultures were themselves viewed as fashionable.

Some agree that the concept was born sometime during the mid 1990s; there is no consensus as to who originated it and where. It is often assumed that it was created by "real geeks" in an attempt to suppress their widely perceived public image as dull, introverted, and academic. However, there is a noticeable lack of prominent representatives in science and other geek-oriented professions who visibly sport geek chic images. Most, if not all, celebrity exponents of geek chic have emerged from the entertainment field. Actor David Tennant, the Tenth Doctor in Doctor Who, has described the look of his character as geek chic.

Aside from (taped) eyeglasses, it is also debatable as to whether the geek chic fashion actually borrows at all from the stereotypical geek image which is based on lack of fashion sense, or more specifically an overtly studious, academic appearance, hence the so-called "Poindexter" look. Instead, much of the geek chic image borrows from various alternative youth fashions such as emo, goth, hippie, and bohemian amongst others. Then again, t-shirts with computer programming in-jokes seems to originate from the widespread Hollywood depiction of Silicon Valleymarker employees and other computer geeks. This exaggeration is based on the more casual dress code in place in many such companies although in reality, this is still mostly limited to business-appropriate attire.

See also


  1. French Wikipedia Geek Article
  2. The Colbert Report - 2007 Archive - 1/17/07 - Television - SPIKE Powered By IFILM
  3. Reconstruction 6.1 (Winter 2006)
  4. BBC's Doctor Who News: Filming starts.

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