a person whose knowledge, aptitudes, and skills are applied to a field as a whole or to a variety of different fields (opposed to specialist).

Origin of generalist

First recorded in 1605–15; general + -ist Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for generalist

Contemporary Examples of generalist

  • Finally if there is anything left over we can explore the possibility of outsourcing the task to a specialist or generalist.

    The Daily Beast logo
    How To Create Your Own User Manual

    Ari Meisel

    February 18, 2014

  • You could be a generalist—a poet/mollusk scientist/seafarer/surgeon.

    The Daily Beast logo
    A.J. Jacobs: How I Write

    Noah Charney

    May 29, 2013

Historical Examples of generalist

  • Pleasure and recreation are the only things in which an individual should be a generalist.

    Dollars and Sense

    Col. Wm. C. Hunter

  • When this nation of ours was born nearly every one was a generalist.

    Dollars and Sense

    Col. Wm. C. Hunter

  • Be a generalist in pleasure and recreation, but not in business.

    Dollars and Sense

    Col. Wm. C. Hunter

  • Woe to the specialist who is not a pretty fair generalist, and woe to the generalist who is not also a bit of a specialist.

  • Make the generalist think of himself in connection with large movements.

    Analyzing Character

    Katherine M. H. Blackford and Arthur Newcomb

British Dictionary definitions for generalist



  1. a person who is knowledgeable in many fields of study
  2. (as modifier)a generalist profession
ecology an organism able to utilize many food sources and therefore able to flourish in many habitatsCompare specialist (def. 3)
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 generalist

1610s, from general (adj.) + -ist.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

generalist in Medicine




A physician whose practice is not oriented in a specific medical specialty but instead covers a variety of medical problems.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.