| How To Define Geek | 

Geek Definition |

Define Geek |

Sure, it's a buzz term that is sometimes used too loosely to describe people who have no right to the title. Sometimes advertisers try and use it to tap into the market and push a product or service but only end up earning an eye roll. Yet, have you ever actually stopped and asked yourself, "How do I define geek?"


Well you've come to the right place as we are on an epic adventure in nostalgia to help you geek it up and find something to geek out about. Whether you are a completionist collector of Star Wars, popular 80s toys or 90s kids toys, classic toys, interested in geek dating, or just like to play Minecraft games online...let's explore how the modern world tries to define geek and all the geeky stuff we are into.

 Let's start by giving the geek definition and backstory to figure out how we define geek.

As defined by Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, a geek is “a person who is very interested in and knows a lot about a particular field or activity” (519). The definition and application of this word have become culturally ambiguous with a host of varying topics. The usage has even transformed into an amalgam of verb, noun, or adjective. However, what does it truly mean to be a geek? Is there more to it than the stigma that modern culture and media has placed on the term? One might be surprised to learn the word dates back as far as 1915 when it entered our lexicon as an alternative to “fool”.  Is this still the image the word conveys? Or have there been evolved versions that have become the ultimate and perfected geek?

I have identified as being a geek all of my life in the traditionally accepted sense of the word. Growing up I read comic books, collected Star Wars memorabilia and popular 80s toys and 90s kids toys, and played video games. My mother has been a librarian for 30 years and because of that I spent many hours at work with her. This gave me access to a variety of topics and created in me an insatiable desire to learn. Because of this, I also have many passions that have a broader classification as geeky stuff including avid reading of science fiction, fantasy, and comic books. I also enjoy (and was previously very active in) theater and musicals. I took to computers, web development & coding, and the internet at an early age. Yep, I had an AngelFire and GeoCities page. Yep, I am even still rocking the same Hotmail address I got in 1997!


Thru the grants awarded from the Bill Gates Foundation, the library was an early adopter of personal computers and, eventually, the internet. Once I realized that my passions were shared by millions who were ready to interact with me in celebration of them; I never looked back. Taking to message boards, fan websites, and chat rooms; I reveled in my discussions of comic books, science fiction, fantasy, popular 80s toys, 90s kids toys, vintage classic toys, arcade/console/PC gaming, and computers & technology. It changed my life to realize there were so many others out there I could instantly connect with to geek it up and geek out about the geeky stuff I was into. I just used geek way too many times in one sentence.

Being a geek used to be synonymous with being an outsider. While I have always been proud of my interests and hobbies there have been times that I realized a prejudice against being described as a geek. In grade school there came a time, like with many children, that I began to be aware that maybe some of my interests were not always the most popular. This trend increased significantly by junior high and, especially, high school.

Towards the end of my high school years, it was the new millennium and with the explosion of the internet and increasing access to it; the world was starting to change. When geeks who started internet companies with .com names that were valued at a billion dollars - everyone started to notice. All of a sudden it seemed like it was starting to be cool. I thought, finally, geeks won't have to hide their interests.

There exist many examples of individuals being ridiculed and shamed for being fans of subjects, topics, or ideas that are not in the mainstream popularity. It could even be argued that being shunned in this manner is exactly the image that is conveyed when many people are asked how to define geek. The history of past decades from the 1920s forward contain trends that serve as proof that society used to stick to a handful of “classic” choices for acceptable hobbies such as cars, sports, and rock-n-roll. Even back into antiquity, it was a normally accepted practice to always appear as tough and hard as possible. Brawn over brains.To be interested in anything that did not make you a manly man was an invitation to be accused of being an outcast.

Yeah, but what about nerds?!

I can already hear it. In an effort to stop the incoming messages I am sure will come anyways...let's discuss the difference between a geek and a nerd.

At this point we are getting into semantics here and I firmly believe the difference is that there really isn't one. Some people call what they are drinking soda. To some everything is a Coke. For me they are all wrong and it is pop. The same is true in reality for the difference between geeks and nerds.

Sure, it is fun to discuss the different choices between geek clothing and nerd wear. My shirt is scientifically correct! My Shirt is an ironically funny satire of society! One is a Mac and the other is a PC! Star Trek VS Star Wars! 

I am a little bit of both. You probably are too. I love me some Captain Picard just like I love me some Captain Han Solo. It is all part of the culture that I identify with and am passionate about. The discussions can be fun but at the end of the day the answer to life, the universe, and everything is still 42 for the both of us.

"There is no denying it now: the reality of what is

popular has undergone a paradigm shift."

Thru the course of my high school and college years, a change began to happen. Being different started to become accepted. I always felt like it was push back from all the horror stories of the cruel pranks played by the “popular kids”. Society finally realized that being true to your self was a beautiful thing. After college, I entered the working business world. Feeding my passion to learn, I strove to be the best and advance in any way possible. However, I also realized that a residual attitude remained to "be a grown-up" and "act professional". If you came to be associated with playing video games, reading comics, collecting classic toys, or wearing geek clothing; it may influence opinion of you. While I was raised to be respectful and always act accordingly, I never believed that someone must give up on all of the things that make them who they are. It was apparent that I was a member of the new generation who would have to reconcile the differences between the cultures and generational gaps. Maybe always this will be the case, yet every day I am encouraged that geek really is the new sexy and it is a standard that has matured into it's own space as a lasting piece of our culture.

The hobbies that teens and young adults used to be told to "grow-up" from are now the creative muses fueling the business & entertainment markets of today. Why do you think every superhero comic book movie or new Star Wars movie makes a billion dollars? Geeks have inherited the earth.

(The 616 version and all the other multiverse worlds as well)

"The hobbies that teens and young adults used to be told to "grow-up" from are now the creative muses fueling the business & entertainment markets of today."

The juxtaposition of being mature and responsible as well as a geek is not in contrast. Why can't you be just as comfortable managing a large sales portfolio while also collecting popular 80s toys? Why does it have to be exclusive to be a professional manager but also enjoy comic books?  I have been told many times by people that I interact with either in a professional or personal setting that coming across as genuine and passionate is an attractive trait. The truth is that people prefer to interact with other real people. Defaulting to some long held stereotype of what society thinks that a person is supposed to be is becoming outdated.

The inherent qualities of a geek are the exact formula that makes them successful. Passion, dedication, attention to detail, and the ability to inspire are all landmarks of what the modern geek is all about. While the word may have entered our language as a derogatory mark against a certain type, it has transformed into much more. I strive to be one of those who own the meaning of being a geek and make it a part of their personal brand. Nothing attracts others quite like passion. Being referred to as a geek is a badge of honor. I strive for perfection in my role and continue to become a perfected geek.


I will end with a quote from science fiction author Ray Bradbury that sums up how to define geek perfectly: “Love what you love”.

Bonus question: what is the real difference between a geek and a nerd? A shower.

(just kidding...we all probably stink)

About the author

Craig Powell is a lifelong geek who loves to go down conversational rabbit holes on things that have not been relevant for decades. A Star Wars collector, lightweight gamer and heavyweight eater, he also enjoys reading comics, watching movies, and using social media to validate his sense of self-worth. He has vowed to defend the honor of the 1987 "Masters of the Universe" movie and is currently accepting invitations for public duels to do so. You can hear more from Craig on the podcasts for "Your Forgotten Youth" and "The Perfected Geek".
You can reach him by email here.
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