Geek or Hacker? Non-UK

Here in the UK people like me refer to themselves & each other as geeks. If I were building a product for people like me then I’d have no problem using the word in marketing material.

How does this term geek translate to other english speaking countries? USA? Canada? Aus/NZ? Could it carry negative connotations?

In the US Hacker seems to be the prevalent term but that seems to rule out designers?


In Aus techies are normally happy to refer to themselves as geeks. But non-techies often equate geek and nerd/loser.

Thanks, that’s how things are here in the UK, certainly for the web/digital community that I’m a part of.

I wonder if that’s the same for other communities?

I’d stay away from hacker. I think it’s perceived very negatively by the general public as someone who breaks into computers to steal data/cause havoc.

Sure, but that’s to the general public and I’m trying to understand if these terms, particularly ‘geek’, might have negative connotations in digital communities outside of the UK.

Does it translate well? i.e. if I were to market a product to geeks in - say - USA and I used that term explicitly, could it be received by them negatively?

There is a saying these days: Geek is sheek.

I think it translates well - the dynamic that craigvn described in Australia is pretty much how it works in the US.

In the past few years, “fashionable geekiness” has also become a thing - geek-ness being portrayed as cool in media and commercials. Sometimes it bothers me a little if it feels like it’s being used as cheap marketing, or by people who aren’t very geeky trying to seem cool. I don’t know how common that feeling is. I think it probably won’t be a problem for you, since you’re within your own target audience.

Avoiding the negative associations of “hacker” is probably also a good thing, if there’s a risk of potential customers (or other people who have to approve of your product, like programmers’ bosses) being unfamiliar with it.

Good point, thanks very much.

Hey Bealers how’re you doing?
Here in NZ the term Geek is used affectionately and there are several companies that use it (e.g. Geeks on Wheels). Here at school the IT Department is often referred to as the Geekzone and I think most people involved in techie/digital communities would be happy to be referred to as geeks.

Hey Tim, good to hear from you :slight_smile: I hope NZ is treating you all well.

So it seems to be a generally acceptable term within one’s own community. Perfect.

Geek is fine. Nerd is fine. I see both used in a positive light relatively often.

Hacker has been mostly abandoned to the negative meaning. For a little while some people tried to make a distinction between hackers and crackers, but that never caught on.

I like this venn diagram which cover it

Hah, another word with a lot of cultural baggage… of course the “white guy” connotation still fits, in many cases.