Where Does The Word "Nerd" Come From?

Where Does The Word "Nerd" Come From?

The first printed instance of the word "nerd" occurs in the Dr. Seuss book "If I Ran the Zoo," published in 1950. The passage lists "a nerd" as one of the fantastical animals that the protagonist would put in his zoo. The text reads: "And then, just to show them, I'll sail to Ka-Troo/And bring back an It-Kutch, a Preep and a Proo/ A Nerkle, a Nerd, and a Seersucker too!" One year later, Newsweek magazine included the word in an article with its now-familiar definition: someone who's a "drip" or a "square." Some people believe that "nerds" popular usage evolved from the 1940s slang term "nert," which describes a "stupid or crazy person."

The Origins of the Words "Geek" and "Nerd"

"Geek" dates back to 1916.

02:18

Key Facts In This Video

  • 1

    In the early 1900s, the word "geek" described circus performers who would bite the heads off of small animals. (0:09)

  • 2

    In 1951, a Newsweek article announced that "someone who once would be called a drip or a square is now, regrettably, a nerd[.]" (0:53)

  • 3

    The proper pronunciation of Dr. Seuss is "Dr. Zoice." (1:31)

The Difference Between a Nerd and a Geek

The guys at Good Mythical Morning on how to tell the difference.

10:11

Weird Word Origins

Get the backstory on words like "lemur" and "hippocampus."

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Key Facts In This Video

  • 1

    As language progresses over time, nouns have a tendency to become verbs. (0:23)

  • 2

    Association football emerged in England in the 1800s, which was shortened to the word "soccer" in 1860. (1:18)

  • 3

    The name for the root vegetable rutabaga was also once slang for dollars in the 1940s. (2:14)

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