Nerd vs. Dork vs. Geek: The Venn Diagram

It had to happen: A Venn Diagram explaining the differences and overlapping between Nerds, Dorks, and Geeks.


  1. I’ve been using this diagram in presentations for about a year. Been trying to credit the original source, but the best I could find was a file on Mashable.

    It’s awesome.

  2. We were just talking about this during our team meeting this morning so this is timely. :D We couldn’t find the correct delineation for these three groups. LOL

    1. More that just switching those two, this whole diagram is off-kilter. First of all, there are plenty of geeks that are stupid as all hell. Nerds I can respect, because at least they’re smart and I can connect with them on that level, but geeks, god-damn, all you need to be a geek is a lack of social skills and an obsession with anime- right where “dork” happens to be. Geeks are the most rampant of the subspecies, visible everywhere- cities, suburbs, malls (not farms, you’ll notice. Nothing that requires actual practical skills.) Wheras dorks, from my point of view, are at least kind of charming and lovable because they’re so… dorky. Dorks do have social skills, sort of, they’re just of a different flavor than most- but they’re inoffensive and non-threatening, while the B.O. or shrill voice of your typical geek is enough to threaten an entire restaurant. Hearing a dork go on and on about some subject can be cute; hearing a geek go on and on about anything makes you want to swallow arsenic.

      And, yes, I realize many geeks read boing boing, but I just don’t see much to praise or admire about geeks- I’m trying to think of noteworthy geeks and all I can come up with is Kevin Smith, which, okay, he can occasionally be funny, I guess, or at least, was 15 years ago, but whatever talent he has is clearly trumped by his geekiness, as evidenced in pretty much all his “films”. I’m not a geek expert so perhaps there are others… but the geeks I know are genuinely hard to like or relate to, which, for me, is a rare thing…

      “Dweeb” just seems like a good insult, to me- not an actual category of distinction.

      Perhaps the math is something like:

      Intelligence + Lack of Social Skills + Obsessive Nature = Nerd
      Nerd-intelligence= geek
      Nerd + social skills – some of that intelligence= dork

      that’s not quite right. must ponder.

      1. The opposing applications of nerd and geek is a fairly well established phenomenon.. it seems to be regional.

  3. That diagram seems to be made of gelatin, with uncertain delimitations, amoeboid inter-penetrations even… it’s alive! When one want to insult a nerd one calls him/her a geek; when the nerds falls in love with the popular girl/boy they become dorks.

    Also, real geeks have no social aptitudes, not even for one another. That is an accepted fact even among themselves. That acceptance itself makes me love them.

  4. My first reaction was: “YES! Nailed it exactly!”

    My second reaction was: “Well … maybe … I’m not so sure.”

    My third reaction was: “It’s really, really close; but something’s not quite right.”

    I’ve always believed that the defining quality of a “geek” is a passionate interest in something that appeals primarily to the intellect (which would exclude sports and sex — which are generally regarded as non-geeky obsessions). So, this diagram gets it pretty close on that account (though I might quibble over the precise wording).

    “Nerd” does imply intelligence (or at least “bookishness”); and it definitely implies a lack of social skills. I guess in my view a “nerd” is just an annoying geek. So the diagram gets it pretty close here, too.

    But I’m less comfortable with the definitions of “dork” and “dweeb”. To me, a “dork” is simply someone who is flagrantly and unabashedly uncool (perhaps even intentionally so). I’ve never associated dorkiness with obsession. I haven’t thought much about the label “dweeb”; but I guess I picture a “dweeb” as anyone with poor social skills, regardless of intellect or obsession. (I’ve never really associated the label “dweeb” with intelligence.) So that part of the diagram seems a bit off, to me, too.

    I proudly call myself both a “geek” and a “dork”; but I’m a bit uncomfortable with “nerd” (even though I’m sure it applies). And I would certainly consider “dweeb” to be an insult — though one that I wouldn’t expect to hear from anyone over the age of ten.

    But, apparently, different people use the terms differently. So … whatever.

  5. If you have to break out this Venn diagram to correct a name-caller, you are guilty as charged. That is all.

  6. When nerds say they like “learning,” they mean “schooling”: completing assignments that earn credit from some authority figure. Geeks view school as something that interferes with learning.

  7. See, my theory’s always been that it’s more of a three-tier hierarchy.

    First you’ve got the nerds – but really you can be a nerd about anything. A nerd is someone with a serious passion about anything. You can be a star trek nerd, or a football nerd, or a movie nerd, or a cooking nerd.

    Next comes the geek. A geek is a nerd who creates a barrier between himself and non-geeks through his passion. Hence the phrase “geeking out” – you are momentarily cutting the lines of connection between you and another person when you geek out about the newest Star Wars novel. But you can also geek out about potential innovations in a new kind of Grand Unified Theory or the trailer of the next Star Trek movie. Geeks with different areas of expertise can still RELATE to one another because they understand the obsession and potential isolation derived therefrom.

    Dorks, I agree, are basically socially-inept geeks. They may find other dorks to hang out with, but overall they lack social skills and their passions/obsessions interfere with their relationships more often than not. Sometimes a symptom of dorkdom is a lack of hygiene, but sometimes it’s just that general awkwardness.

    I’d disagree that dorks lack intelligence, that geeks aren’t socially inept, or that nerds *are* socially inept. And the term dweeb is painfully archaic – it’s like calling something “rad” or “tubular.”

    Anyway, just another potential taxonomy!

  8. “Dweeb” is right out – clearly plugged in there just to fill that spot. I’d move “nerd” up there (bright but socially inept). Dork is spot-on (socially inept and obsessed with some stupid thing). I think “geek” belongs in the middle (having, as @sapere_aude says above, “passionate interest in something that appeals primarily to the intellect” and also being at least a little off-kilter in more mundane social circles).

    That leaves unlabeled someone at the intersection of intelligence and obsession, who nevertheless has completely adequate social skills. The label we need is “unicorn” I think — there’s no such a animal.

  9. Let us not forget where the word “geek” comes from. A geek is a part of a carnival freak show who bites the heads off of chickens.

    In this sense a geek is someone who is freakish and different. Think “carnie”. There is nothing intellectual about this original meaning of the word.

    But as words get hijacked their meanings change and this is what happened to “geek”. With that in mind why bother arguing over it’s definition? Clearly it no longer has a precise meaning but instead a nebulous field of insinuation, meaning something unique to each person.

    Personally, I find the suggestion that a geek is necessarily intelligent quite distasteful.

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