Geek is 2013’s Word of the Year

Geek is 2013’s Word of the Year

Geek is chic

“If your culture doesn’t like geeks, you are in real trouble.” ~ Bill Gates

“Being a geek is all about being honest about what you enjoy and not being afraid to demonstrate that affection.” ~ Simon Pegg

It used to mean Dungeons & Dragons, knowing the entire number of programmes (and their titles) in Babylon 5 and the subtle nuances of the languages Huttese and Bocce in Star Wars.

OK, we’re stereotyping. Massively. But you get the picture. We’re talking about geeks.

Actually, as you will no doubt have noticed, the meaning of the word geek has changed considerably over the last few years.

Far from meaning a bespectacled simpleton with a rather pointless passion, geek is now invested with new kudos and cultural capital, and means much more than a shy Star Trek fan who can’t get the girl.

So it seems right and proper that geek is the UK’s Word of the Year for 2013, according to Collins Dictionary, beating off such luminaries as ‘twerking’ and ‘bitcoin’ to take the top spot.

Rise of the geeks

In 2003, a ‘person who is preoccupied with or very knowledgeable about a specific subject’ ousted a ‘boring and unattractive social misfit’ as the primary meaning of the word in the Collins Dictionary.

‘Geekery’, ‘geek chic’ and ‘geekdom’ have also all been accepted into the Collins Dictionary during the last year, based on their increased evidence of use.

The word geek has its origins in the 19th century. Thought to be a variant of the Scottish word ‘geck’, meaning a fool, it was also used in American slang to mean a social misfit.

In the late 20th century, advances in technology transformed the meaning of the word. At first associated with someone obsessive with technology (but still laced with undertones of social ineptitude), it has increasingly become one of pride and has spread way beyond the confines of computing, now used to describe someone with passion in any area of expertise.

Being a geek now means, as actress Olivia Munn has argued, having ‘passion, power, intelligence’.

“Geek is a great example of a word that has evolved from having a negative meaning to having a positive one,” said Ian Brookes, consultant editor to Collins Dictionary.

“This change in meaning represents a positive change in perceptions about specialist expertise, and is a result of the influence of technology on people’s lives in 2013

“The idea of future generations inheriting a more positive definition of the word ‘geek’ is something that Collins believes is worth celebrating.”

The rest of 2013’s top words


Moving the hips up and down as part of an erotically suggestive dance. Especially associated with recording artist Miley Cyrus.


A digital currency exchanged by users of the internet and becoming more widely accepted by retailers.


A hand-held computer larger than a smartphone but smaller than a tablet computer.


A public scandal in which UK cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell is alleged to have called police on duty in Downing Street ‘plebs’.


A person or business involved in extracting shale gas through the process of hydraulic fracturing.


A pun on ‘cybernaut and ‘nationalist’ that refers to a supporter of Scottish independence who is active on online forums.

Thigh gap

A gap between the top of the legs when a person stands with the feet together.


An animal of the raccoon family, living in the cloud forests of Colombia and Ecuador. Discovered in August 2013, this creature is the first new species of carnivore to be identified in the western hemisphere in 35 years.

Black Friday

In the US, Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving and is widely recognised as the start of the Christmas shopping season.

Payday lending

The practice of making short-term loans to people who are expected to repay them from their future earnings.

Harlem Shake

An internet meme in which people perform a comic sketch involving wild dancing.

Which is your favourite?

Written by Yusuf Bhana
Yusuf Bhana
Yusuf is Head of Digital at TranslateMedia. He has an interest in how technology can help businesses achieve their marketing objectives. He's been working in digital marketing and web development since 2001 across a wide range of industries and clients.

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