Geeks vs Nerds: What’s the difference?

Written by: Samantha Wolhuter

illustration of two guys holding a book

This is a question which has baffled scholars for decades. Like religion and politics, it’s a highly contentious subject which continues to spark rigorous debate among nerds and geeks alike the world over. Newbies to the ‘geek fleet and ‘nerd herd’ scenes often find themselves unaware of which category they fall into, but true geeks and nerds know very well where they stand.

Let’s Clear It Up

To the average person, geeks and nerds are one in the same: interchangeable weirdos who fulfil the same purpose — being drastically uncool. But, these days being ‘cool’ is a loose term which has a different meaning depending on who you are and what series you’re currently binging.

Contemporary popular fashion and culture trends have appropriated many of the classic nerd/geek traits and ushered them into the mainstream. Now you have hipsters dressing like nerds and making nerd and geek-chic more accessible, popular and ‘cool’. With all these appropriators and scenesters now in the mix, it’s becoming increasingly harder to tell which of them are true geeks and nerds and which are just tourists.

Go into any bar in a trendy district and ask one of the patrons rocking the powerful bowl cut/socks and slops combination if they can fix a bug on your laptop. You’ll learn pretty quickly who can back their geek-chic up with true ‘geekiness’ and who is simply adopting the fashion trend in a dire attempt to remain relevant. Meow.

Geek Fleet

Geeks are commonly outgoing and socially even-keeled enthusiasts of a particular topic or field. They are keen collectors of facts or the latest mementoes of their subject of interest — think Star Wars fans who collect memorabilia and dress up as characters from the film or even tech geeks who compulsively buy the latest gadgets. They share friendship groups with other geeks and they spend their time focusing on geeking out together.

Nerd Herd

Nerds are usually shy, uncoordinated and socially awkward individuals who are more academically inclined — studious intellectuals of a particular topic or field. They are highly driven by achievements and focus their attention on acquiring knowledge and skill over memorabilia and trivia. Think a mathematics professor or Stephen Hawking. They are usually loners who enjoy their personal time or share small friendship groups of fellow bookworms.

Scouring the web for all things nerd and geek-related can yield some rather entertaining results. One site attempted to personify nerds as ‘books’ and geeks as ‘e-books’. I kind of get it. And of course, the cerebral giants at Urban Dictionary define a geek as ‘a person you pick on in high school and end up working for as an adult’. Horrifyingly accurate.

In Conclusion — because it’s important to be formal

Nerds and geeks have existed alongside each other for many years. Many people confuse them, but true nerds and geeks require no definition. Nerds will always be nerds. And apparently ‘geek is on fleek’ these days. But if you’re looking for the coolest combination of smarts, tech genius and uber creativity, you’ll be looking for a Brainiac!

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Last modified: May 29, 2020
Author info
Samantha Wolhuter
Sam is in charge of writing a big portion of WeAreBrain’s creative content. She is a digital nomad always on the go, inspiring us with her words from some of the world's most beautiful locations.
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