How to Tell the Difference Between Nerds and Geeks

Three Parts:The Geek, DefinedThe Nerd, DefinedComparing Geeks and Nerds

"You're a geek!" "You're a nerd!" Is that a compliment, a diss, or what? What does that even mean, anyway? It can be confusing, especially since there's some crossover between the two, making possible geeky nerds… or nerdy geeks! This article will help you understand the difference between the two.

Part 1
The Geek, Defined

  1. Image titled 94999 1
    Understand the origins of the geek. In order to fully appreciate the modern geek, one must find the roots of geekdom.
    • Back in the early 1900s, when traveling carnivals were popular, there was a performer called the "geek." His job was to perform bizarre and disgusting acts for the amusement of the locals. Notably, this included biting the heads off live chickens.[1]
  2. Image titled Tell the Difference Between Nerds and Geeks Step 2
    Compare to the geek of today. Today's geek rarely bites the heads off chickens. Instead, a geek is somebody who is generally very knowledgeable — even to the point of obsession— about a particular topic.
    • Being a geek gained traction when self-adopted by computer programmers and other technical people, but has since become more mainstream. There are wine geeks, car geeks, and Lord of the Rings geeks, each of which closely follows the minutiae of their chosen obsession.
    • To further clarify, it's important to note that geeks are generally social. They have their fascination in what makes them unique, but you probably wouldn't know of their geekitude unless they told you about it.

Part 2
The Nerd, Defined

  1. Image titled Tell the Difference Between Nerds and Geeks Step 3
    Uncover the origins of the word "nerd." The word "nerd" was started on in 1954, by a young doctor by the name of Seuss, in a line that read, "A merkle, a nerd, and a seersucker too!" If you don't wish to defile nerddom by calling someone a nerd, you can also call them a "seersucker."[2]
    • The general connotation is of an irritating, unattractive person who may be brilliant, but chooses to focus on non-social pursuits.[3]
    • Another definition of "nerd" is a four-letter word with a six-figure income.[4]

Part 3
Comparing Geeks and Nerds

  1. Image titled Tell the Difference Between Nerds and Geeks Step 4
    Compare communication skills. Geeks and nerds may share similar outward traits — or not — but when you compare their approach to life, the differences become apparent.
    • Nerds love to use jargon or unfamiliar terminology in their dialogue, whereas geeks will use obscure references rarely.
      • For example, a nerd might say, "That's an overused Foley. The SD must be lazy."
      • The geek would say of the same thing, "Oh! I love how Percy Jackson uses the Wilhelm Scream in every movie!"
    • Geeks often take interest in the microcosmic details of life, such as noticing that your present situation is much like one from a news article or a novel. Nerds will be seemingly uninterested in the details of daily life, being more focused on the macroscopic, such as scientific possibilities and the future of humankind.
  2. Image titled Tell the Difference Between Nerds and Geeks Step 5
    Compare interests. You will know them by how they play.
    • A geek may enjoy board games, film (and may follow directors, composers, or key grips obsessively), tech gadgets, hacking, and techno music.
    • A nerd enjoys solitary pursuits like programming and Second life, or games like chess and go.
  3. Image titled Tell the Difference Between Nerds and Geeks Step 6
    Compare their social skills. While they both have obsessive traits about their passions, they diverge when it comes to normal human interactions.
    • A geek has normal social skills, though they can be prone to being pretentious and long-winded, especially when the topic happens to land on their particular passion. Then, they may not let you go until they've explained exactly how this widget works, and the history of the team that created it.
    • A nerd is generally more introverted. They may know a great deal about exactly the same thing a geek specializes in, but getting them to talk about it can take some doing.
  4. Image titled Tell the Difference Between Nerds and Geeks Step 7
    Find out whom they love. It's a universal truism that geeks can fall for anybody (though the reverse may not be true). However, most nerds fall only for nerds. This may be a survival tactic, but nobody knows for sure.
  5. Image titled Tell the Difference Between Nerds and Geeks Step 8
    Discover where they work. While nerds and geeks are both intelligent and educated, there are some career paths that appeal only to one or the other:
    • In addition to populating IT departments the world over, you can find geeks in artistic jobs like web design, graphic design, or game designs. You may find geeks behind the bar, in your local record store, or pulling espressos at the coffee shop.
    • Look for nerds to be working as a rocket scientist, or programming the software that the IT department has to manage. They may be an engineer, or an inventor, or even a brilliant recluse who rarely sees the light of day. You might also find them behind the counter at the last remaining video store.
    • Nerds tends to be interested in the field of STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. People in this field tend to be intelligent and will require years of college education.
  6. Image titled Tell the Difference Between Nerds and Geeks Step 9
    Enjoy the differences. Geeks, nerds, dweebs, dorks, twerps, dolts, and norms all have their niche, and all have something to contribute to this great world of ours. It's fun to laugh and draw out stereotypes, but keep in mind that unless proven otherwise, everybody has value.
    • Keep in mind that most geeks are part nerd, and most nerds are part geek. Sometimes the line between is very fuzzy, and remember these two definitions from the Urban Dictionary
    • Nerd: The person you will one day call "boss".
    • Geek: The people you picked on in high school and wind up working for as an adult.


  • Some nerds believe that their interests are of "potential value to humanity as a whole, although humanity doesn't know it yet."
  • Nerds may not feel the need to defend attacks against their areas of interest, since they simply don't really care about others' opinions. Geeks are typically very energetic, and will jump at the chance to discuss a topic they care about, to help convince you about its worth.
  • To engage a Geek or a Nerd in conversation, be prepared to accept and take advantage of the fact that there is something they are fundamentally obsessed about. You may not fully understand why, but just accept that it is so. Both groups are more likely to share their emotions and thoughts once you discovered what they really take interest in.
  • They're both likely to be smart and for sure very knowledgeable in their special métier. This means they can and should be taken serious when talking about these things. However, to automatically assume a Geek or Nerd to be a full-fledged genius is incorrect. Due to the often technical nature of their speciality nerds are more likely to be of relatively high intelligence while Geeks are a more diverse group in terms of intellectual ability.
  • It is possible that somebody is either a nerd or a geek but doesn’t realize it and, therefore, doesn't celebrate their status or identify with it; this person may even be struggling to be seen as mainstream.
  • Both nerds and geeks are common targets for bullying. This can be due to visual traits and style that do not fulfill the expectations of their social environment, or may occur because their specialty is not commonly accepted as a valuable/ interesting skill. An additional problem is that both nerds and Geeks tend to make less friends in school or workplace but rather connect with people who share their interests. This contributes to the bullying problem and overlaps with the anti-social behaviour that Nerds primarily show.
  • Nerds will often use longer and 'smarter' words in their sentences , usually out of habit and other times to impress. Geeks will more commonly use words such as 'gotcha' or 'gonna' while a nerd would use 'Got you' and 'Going to'. Also geeks may use abbreviations such as 'IDC' 'GTG' 'IDK' in their sentences.
  • Nerds and geeks, by their very nature, will never be mainstream or accepted by the general populace. All one can do is attempt to be a little more open-minded and understanding of others.
  • Geeks are typically able to extrapolate beyond an object's immediate value to foresee future value, although many will merely see a trinket, hoarding, or garbage. This makes them also an important target group for merchandise products.
  • Both geeks and nerds may have traits of autism/Asperger Syndrome. Becoming aware of this, if it fits you, can do much to alleviate the constant pain of trying to fit in where you cannot do so; a greater measure of self-acceptance – not to mention capitalizing on your undeniable strengths – would be a better strategy for leading a fruitful and happy life. Don't assume that all nerds and geeks have Asperger Syndrome or autism, which may be a stereotype for that disability.
  • Though both may qualify for Mensa, nerds are more likely to join, preferring the company of others with similarly high IQs or similar interests. [5]


  • Don't assume that geeks and nerds only have one interest. A linguist or artist may also happen to play football or guitar.
  • Do not assume that nerds and geeks want to be "converted" into "popular" people. Despite common misconception, nerds and geeks do not worship the popular, nor are they frightened by those who are seemingly popular. In fact, there may even be pity for the popular person's shallow lifestyle.
  • Geeks are generally more open to talk things out with you if they disagree; a nerd will typically shun you if you do not provide a fleshed-out or logical counter-argument. Don't take it personally; simply realize that they're probably very frustrated that other people don't connect with them at the same intellectual level.
  • Geeks are well aware of their geekiness. Many geeks are even proud of being a geek, hence the launching of sites such as, LifeHacker, Gizmodo, and Engadget. Think about the Geek Squad in Best Buy. Therefore, do not ever challenge a geek's level of geekdom if you wish to converse with them. Likewise, do not question the intellect of a nerd, lest you be shunned from their conversations.
  • It is possible for someone to be a nerd and a geek, depending on definition. For example, people who like Star Trek may be also be interested in string theory. A tomato gardener may have a degree in bio-chemical engineering. Many "nerd" and "geek" interests interlace. Often being a geek leads to being a nerd, as people research areas of science and technology appropriate to their interest. Similarly, nerds can become geeks, as expertise leads to interests outside the typically "academic".
  • Do not confuse 'expert', 'hipster', and Geek. While there are overlaps (even with Nerds), in their pure state, they are not the same.
  • Remember, nerds and geeks are just people. All people have hobbies, crushes, secrets, vices and virtues. They're just people. Don't treat geeks and nerds as if all they care about is studying and being smart. That's important to them, but so are other things, like having friends. They might not say it, but they're not robots. They have emotions too, folks. Respect that.
  • Many nerds and geeks are introverted, and some are even asocial. They may even not want to talk to you at all. Be patient when conversing with them.
  • Nerds and geeks are often clever and witty. Enjoying the SyFy channel or knowing the Constitution in Latin are not grounds for claims of inferiority.
  • Geekdom and nerddom are not limited by gender. Girls can just as easily be nerdy and geeky. Do not assume that they are doing it for male attention, or you will quickly look like a jerk.

Article Info

Categories: Intellectual Types