Nerds, Dorks, Geeks, and Cool Dudes

Nerd Dork Geek VennWhen I was in college (Go Blue!), I lived in a house with all dudes – 7 guys from all over the country. My buddy Pat used to tell people that we were just a bunch of dorks. Dorks? I’d refute Pat’s claim that we were dorks. I told him not to include me in that group as I wanted to be known as one of the cool kids. For the record, Pat was an engineer while I was in liberal arts and business. Pat took a course on Statics – the study of non-motion. Need I say more?

Fast forward to conversations I’ve had with K-Dawg about our soon-to-be-born daughter (Baby Waldow). Kristina wants her to be a nerd. I want her to be cool. Kristina’s rationale is that if she’s a nerd, she likely be smart, thus giving her more opportunities in life. Also for the record, Kristina claims she was a “cool nerd” in high school and college. Work hard, play hard. One of the many things I love about her.

Just last month, I was sitting at a table with the likes of Summer (Joy) Boone, Amber Naslund, Chris Moody, Emily Haughey, and a few others. We had just wrapped up a day of talking social media at Social Fresh Tampa (plug: great event run by Jason Keath). Someone brought up the whole nerd vs. dork vs. geek conversation.

And just yesterday, I was having an IM conversation with Amber and (again) dork vs. geek vs. nerd came up.

I figured it was time for a fresh post. It was time to set the record straight – thanks to Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary and, of course, Urban Dictionary. Here goes…


I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word Nerd, I think of Revenge of the Nerds (the movie). I also think about how sometimes Kristina will chant “Nerds! Nerds! Nerds! Nerds!” (see Rap clip – classic).

Merriam-Webster defines nerd as, “an unstylish, unattractive, or socially inept person; especially : one slavishly devoted to intellectual or academic pursuits <computer nerds>.

Urban Dictionary has their own unique spin (but of course). Their top 3:

  1. One whose IQ exceeds his weight.
  2. An individual persecuted for his superior skills or intellect, most often by people who fear and envy him.
  3. An ‘individual’, i.e. a person who does not conform to society’s beliefs that all people should follow trends and do what their peers do. Often highly intelligent but socially rejected because of their obesssion with a given subject, usually computers. Unfortunately, nerds seem to have problems breeding, to the detriment of mankind as a whole.

Read all of the Urban Dictionary definitions of Nerd (note: some may not be safe for work).

Are you a nerd?


I think of dork as a “cool nerd” … whatever that means.

Interestingly, Meriam-Webster doesn’t really have a definition of dork. They say the etymology is from another 4 letter word that starts with a D. However, I do like that that say it’s slang for “nerd” and “jerk.” Jerk? Odd.

A few choice selections from Urban Dictionary (I’ve skipped #2 – awkward):

  1. Someone who has odd interests, and is often silly at times. A dork is also someone who can be themselves and not care what anyone thinks.
  2. Someone who does things that are kinda silly and not necessarily cool but always cute.
  3. An individual who is keenly interested in and good at mathematics, science, and technology, and applies mathematical and scientific principles to everyday occurrences, while at the same time being lovable and very personable, often having many friends due to wittiness, often loves video games. Not to be confused with nerd or geek or dweeb.

Are you a dork?


To me, a geek is a really dorky nerd.

Again, I defer to Merriam-Webster who defines geek as:

  1. a carnival performer often billed as a wild man whose act usually includes biting the head off a live chicken or snake
  2. a person often of an intellectual bent who is disliked
  3. an enthusiast or expert especially in a technological field or activity <computer geek>

Again, Urban Dictionary tells it how it really is.

  1. The people you pick on in high school and wind up working for as an adult
  2. Not to be confused with Nerd. A geek does not have to be smart, a Geek is someone who is generaly not athletic, and enjoys Video Games; Comic Books; being on the internet, and etc.

Definition #3 is perhaps my favorite (especially the “note” at the bottom):

The term “geek” originally referred to the carnival performers whose act consisted of biting the heads off chickens and eating glass. Over time it came to be applied to anyone who got paid to do work considered odd or bizarre by mainstream society.

The term now enjoys a special status within the technical community, particularly among particularly knowledgable computer programmers. To identify oneself as a “geek” indicates a recognition that most people still consider programming computers to be a bizarre act, along with a certain fierce satisfaction in being very good at their inglorious profession.

That most software geeks now easily earn twice as much as the average laborer just sweetens their defiant embrace of the term.

Note: Unlike the word “nerd,” which is always pejorative, “geek” often carries a positive connotation when used by one of the group. The use of the term by outsiders is considered insulting.

Are you a geek?

Cool Dude

Finally, there is the cool dude – what I consider myself to be. Ha ha. Yeah. Right. My friends, family (and wife) remind me all of the time that I’m not really one of the cool kids. I think they are just jealous. We all know what a cool dude is, right? This post really is not about that group. It’s about the nerds, dorks, and geeks. Based on those definitions above, I’d consider myself a dork (minus the “good at math & science” part … as well as definition #2 from Urban Dictionary). Dammit. Pat was right.

So, which one are you?

A. Nerd.
B. Dork.
C. Geek.
D. Cool Dude.
E. Other.

Image Credit: coneybeare
Disclaimer, Blue Sky Factory – Email Marketing is a lead sponsor of Social Fresh.

DJ Waldow


I am an extremely dorky version of a cool person. I can play the cool role when need be, and can get many people to believe I am actually cool...however, at heart, I am definitely a dork. I trip (in public), love Harry Potter (that may qualify for nerd status), snort when I laugh really hard and am a shy person around a lot of people. I never really feel cool, but I think that's perfectly okay... :)


I have an interesting theory and I'd love to hear your thoughts on it. I've noticed that pretty much all of the socially inept people I know walk a very particular way - it's called a duck walk, with the feet pointed far out to the sides. Some to a greater degree than others, but I can't recall that I've seen a socially inept person who didn't walk that way at least a little bit.

Since you seem to know a lot of nerd/geeks/dorks, I'd love to know if you've ever noticed the same thing? Just an odd theory I've wondered about for years. Do they walk that way because they are inept, or are they inept because they walk that way?

Justin Premick
Justin Premick

Based on the UD definitions, I've gotta go with NerDork. (Proof point #1: the fact that I fused them together like that.)

Tom Webster
Tom Webster

On behalf of my family, I thank you for using Merriam-Webster.

Aleksandar Ivanov
Aleksandar Ivanov

In my opinion the american definition of a "cool dude" in many countries will be inerpreted as a good for nothing lousy and lazy man, who is almost always a fallower and never a leader, incapable of own opinion and offtrack of self improvemnt. At the bottom line becomes the looser. Countries don't prosper through extensive drinking, partying and getting laid, although they are sort of necessity. I think the best concept is work hard, play hard. Oh, and please stop labeling people it's a very degrading process for everybody, no one excluded.


And here I thought *I* obsessed about inconsequential minutiae. You took it to an entirely new plane, my friend.

PS - where would the "socially outcast" or "one-foot-in-the-IN-crowd, but-not-really-party-invite-worthy" folks go?

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Marc Meyer
Marc Meyer do have a tattoo on your wrist...


I'd would like to consider myself a 'reformed' cool dude.

Since I have started working for an ESP, I have become more and more of a tech geek which my thirst knows no bounds. However I do think I retain my 'coolness' with how I deal with everyday life, though my friends and even my peers tend to raise their eyebrows when I get over excited about certain 'techie' issues.

I am certainly not a nerd by any stretch, but I feel my personality/character incorporates all aspects of A through D.


I've always thought that "geek" was a hip nerd. The onomatopoeia of "dork" has it's charms as well. It just sounds awkward and akimbo.

I'm digging my own grave, here, by continuing, so I'll just say, neato post! Best, M.


Yea, I'd have to go with geek. I spent last night coding until 2:30AM. I was totally geeking it. I can't stretch my way to cool dude, not in the least.

Thanks for the entertaining and well thought out post. I can't believe you put that much thought into this topic. Well, then again, I can believe *you* did.

Keep it up man,@covati


Well my weight certainly exceeds my IQ and I ain't no GEEK - Technically challenged! It's entirely possible I'm a Dork! (might possibly have been happier not idenitfying!) (but not a whale dork!!)

Matthew Glidden
Matthew Glidden

NEEEERDS! That's me.

"Geek" works great as a verb, like "I spent last night geeking out with my new solid-state hard drive."

Caleb Gardner
Caleb Gardner

Since our avatars apparently look alike, would that make me a cool dude as well?

Summer Joy
Summer Joy

your post is challenging everything i thought i knew....crud.

always considered geek to be a choice (meaning cool kid) and nerd to be a sad sad genetic disposition.

it appears that i no longer wish to be defined as a geek but rather as a dork. #myconfession
*hangs head...exits blog* :)

great post DJ!

[email protected]

Mark Brownlow
Mark Brownlow

Should I be concerned that I just assumed I'd be a dork, nerd or geek and didn't even bother reading "cool dude"?

Chris Moody
Chris Moody

Dorks for the win.

Great post DJ and good luck at Ignite!

I present tonight if you're bored and want to watch the live stream.

Chris Moody