Printable Version
Pronunciation: geek Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. (US Slang) A socially awkward person who devotes all his or her time to some scientific pursuit, usually involving computers. 2. (US Slang) A serious intellectual better adapted to thinking than mingling with his or her peers.

Notes: Today's Good Word is a rarity: it is spelled exactly the way it sounds. It is so popular that it has spawned a rather hearty family of derivations. Geeky means "like a geek" and geekiness is what all geeks share in common. Geekdom refers to all geeks together, taken as a class. Today's word may be used as is for a verb meaning "behave like a geek" or "give up, back down".

In Play: This is a rather light-hearted indictment of whomever it is directed toward; indeed, it may even be used sympathetically: "Frank Sanbeens is a geek: get him to fix your computer." The second meaning evolved from the first: "Erik can be such a geek when he gets on his political hobbyhorse." Kids, be kind to geeks—you may end up working for one some day.

Word History: Today's Good Word arose from the sawdust of the circus, where it meant "a performer of bizarre acts", such as biting the heads off snakes. We don't know how it came to be in the circus, but there is a cluster of words with similar sounds and meanings across pretty much all Germanic languages. It could come from a word, geck "fool", that crept into English dialects from Middle Dutch geck (Modern Dutch gek "crazy"). We find its cousins in German Geck "popinjay, dandy", Danish gk "fool", Swedish gcka "to fool", and Icelandic gikkur "uppity person". (Now we owe thanks to Andrew Rowland who, if he is a geek, came out of his shell long enough to suggest today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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