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[geek] /gik/ Slang.
a digital-technology expert or enthusiast (a term of pride as self-reference, but often used disparagingly by others).
a person who has excessive enthusiasm for and some expertise about a specialized subject or activity:
a foreign-film geek.
a peculiar person, especially one who is perceived to be overly intellectual, unfashionable, or socially awkward.
a carnival performer who performs sensationally morbid or disgusting acts, as biting off the head of a live chicken.
verb (used without object)
to be overexcited about a specialized subject or activity, or to talk about it with excessive enthusiasm (usually followed by out):
I could geek out about sci-fi for hours.
Origin of geek
1915- 20; probably variant of geck (mainly Scots) fool < Dutch or Low German gek
Related forms
geeky, adjective
Word story
Geek and nerd: are they marginalized rejects or cool pop culture specialists? It depends on the era in which these slang labels were applied.
In the first half of the 20th century, geek was the word for a circus sideshow performer who bit the heads off small live animals. Geeks were meant to put on horrifying spectacles for the normal people in the audience. Through what linguists call “semantic drift” (gradual change in meaning), a slang use of geek emerged in the popular culture of the 1980s to designate a newly marginalized group: smart and tech-savvy—but socially awkward—young enthusiasts of emerging computer technologies.
The termnerd in the second half of the 20th century similarly described an unpopular, overly intellectual young person who was interested in science or math. The stereotypical high school or college nerd was picked on by the stereotypical jock and never stood a chance with the pretty, popular girl. Nerds were not considered cool.
But in the 21st century, both words evolved to become nearly synonymous, and labels no longer to be ashamed of. Twenty-first century geeks and nerds are smart people of all ages (and genders) who are well-informed and care passionately about something. Though often an expert in technology, science, or math, a nerd or geek can be a specialist or fan of almost any subculture imaginable: a French-cuisine geek or a Jane Austen nerd.
Today these labels are not predominantly used to stigmatize. What changed? First, mainstream pop culture embraced science fiction toward the end of the 20th century. Sci-fi was no longer a private niche of films and comic books, known only to fans of the genre. Films like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Alien, and Star Wars became common cultural touchstones. Also, computer technology infiltrated almost every aspect of 21st-century life. The specialists in that technology, once belittled for their interests, became valued and pivotal members of society. Further, the Internet has helped people to find like-minded peers who share otherwise specialized and possibly isolating interests, connecting and creating thriving communities.
Geek and nerd, terms with a painful and exclusionary history, are not always appropriate labels to force on someone else. However, they are increasingly used by people to refer to themselves and others in reappropriated and validating ways. When used to mean specialist or enthusiast, geek and nerd need not be considered offensive labels at all. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for geek
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Did you run into a geek named Gorkrink, while you were on Nif?

    Uller Uprising Henry Beam Piper, John D. Clark and John F. Carr
  • "Yes, geek ingratitude's an old story to all of us," Blount agreed.

    Uller Uprising Henry Beam Piper, John D. Clark and John F. Carr
  • As far as that goes, you know what the geek name for a Terran is?

    Uller Uprising Henry Beam Piper, John D. Clark and John F. Carr
  • It was a geek accent, and it made you sound like a smart-ass instead of a sharp operator.


    Cory Doctorow
  • When a geek prince hired out as a laborer for a year on Niflheim, he did so for only one purpose—to learn Terran technologies.

    Uller Uprising Henry Beam Piper, John D. Clark and John F. Carr
British Dictionary definitions for geek


noun (slang)
a person who is preoccupied with or very knowledgeable about computing
a boring and unattractive social misfit
a degenerate
Derived Forms
geeky, adjective
Word Origin
C19: probably variant of Scottish geck fool, from Middle Low German geck
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
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Contemporary definitions for geek

See gearhead's 21st Century Lexicon
Copyright © 2003-2014, LLC
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Word Origin and History for geek

"sideshow freak," 1916, U.S. carnival and circus slang, perhaps a variant of geck "a fool, dupe, simpleton" (1510s), apparently from Low German geck, from an imitative verb found in North Sea Germanic and Scandinavian meaning "to croak, cackle," and also "to mock, cheat." The modern form and the popular use with reference to circus sideshow "wild men" is from 1946, in William Lindsay Gresham's novel "Nightmare Alley" (made into a film in 1947 starring Tyrone Power).

"An ordinary geek doesn't actually eat snakes, just bites off chunks of 'em, chicken heads and rats." [Arthur H. Lewis, "Carnival," 1970]
By c.1983, used in teenager slang in reference to peers who lacked social graces but were obsessed with new technology and computers (e.g. the Anthony Michael Hall character in 1984's "Sixteen Candles").
geek out vi. To temporarily enter techno-nerd mode while in a non-hackish context, for example at parties held near computer equipment. [Eric S. Raymond, "The New Hacker's Dictionary," 1996]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for geek



  1. A sideshow freak, esp one who does revolting things like biting the heads off live chickens (1920s+ Carnival & circus)
  2. A snake charmer (1920s+ Carnival & circus)
  3. A pervert or degenerate, esp one who will do disgusting things to slake deviant appetites; creep, weirdo (1920s+ Carnival & circus)
  4. (also geekoid) A devotee; fan; freak, nerd: and assorted science-fiction geeks around the world who actually call themselves cyberpunk (1990s+)

Related Terms


[origin unknown; perhaps related to British dialect geck, geke, ''fool''; according to David Maurer, ''said to have originated with a man named Wagner of Charleston, WV, whose hideous snake-eating act made him famous'']

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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