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dork

[dawrk]
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noun
  1. Slang. a silly, out-of-touch person who tends to look odd or behave ridiculously around others; a social misfit: If you make me wear that, I’ll look like a total dork!
  2. Slang: Vulgar. penis.
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Origin of dork

1960–65; expressive coinage; compare similar phonetic elements in dolt, dong3, jerk1, etc.

Word story

The history of dork is a short one. It’s been around only since the 1950s or 60s, originally as a slang term for “penis.” Most likely dork was just an alternative form of dick, a word that started out as a nickname for Richard—a name meaning “fellow”—but which by the late 1800s, had taken on the additional meaning of “penis” (which is certainly part of a fellow) in British army slang.
By the late 60s, American college students had extended the meaning of dork to refer to a socially awkward person. While at first this sense of dork carried pejorative connotations, the term has since been “taken back” by the people it once so cruelly described, and now can even be given as a compliment. If a girl calls a guy “adorkable” (the combination of “dork” and “adorable”), she means to say he is cute in a socially awkward, yet endearing way.
Geeks and nerds, while still dorky, are generally considered more intelligent than dorks. Next time you call someone a dork think about its short history in the English language, and reflect upon what a word nerd you are.

Popular references


King Dork: A coming-of-age novel by Frank Portman, first published in 2006.
—Son of Dork: A powerpop band from the UK.
Dork Tower: An online comic by John Kovalic.
Related Quotations
  • "[O]ver there he wouldn’t be no fatboy or dork or kid no girl had ever loved; over there he’d be a hero, an avenger."
    -Juno Díaz The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007)
  • "[W]hile I’m definitely a dork, I’m not a nerd...I’m lucky that they’re popular enough that they don’t have to worry about…being seen with a dork like me."
    -Robin Friedman The Girlfriend Project (2007)
  • "The terror-image he had was of having to go naked into a communal shower and having the other draftees laugh at the size of his dork."
    -Desmond Stone Alec Wilder in Spite of Himself (1996)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for dork

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • “Neither do they, dork,” Hilda said, giving him an elbow in the ribs.

    Makers

    Cory Doctorow

  • Oh, Dork, don't ask questions; it's a disgraceful affair, I fear.

    In the Onyx Lobby

    Carolyn Wells

  • Oh, hang it all, Dork, I'll go into some respectable business and earn a living.

    In the Onyx Lobby

    Carolyn Wells

  • In one of the waistcoat pockets Mr. Dork found the dead man's silver watch, with a blood-stained ribbon and a worthless gilt seal.

    Aurora Floyd, Vol. II (of 3)

    M. E. (Mary Elizabeth) Braddon

  • Mr. Dork looked about him in the moonlight, entirely bewildered by the disappearance of Samuel Prodder.

    Aurora Floyd, Vol. II (of 3)

    M. E. (Mary Elizabeth) Braddon


British Dictionary definitions for dork

dork

noun slang
  1. a stupid or incompetent person
  2. US a penis
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Derived Formsdorky, adjective

Word Origin

C20: of unknown origin
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for dork

n.

"stupid person," 1967, originally U.S. student slang, perhaps from earlier meaning "penis" (1964), itself probably an alteration of dick. Related: Dorky; dorkiness.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper