I've been running this site for about four months, yet I still haven't etymologized nerd. Looking at the hard consonant ending, it could easily be Germanic. The truth is, the word is a figment of a famous imagination. The first mention of the word nerd was in Dr. Seuss's 1950 book If I Ran the Zoo, where the main character voices aloud that he would replace all the lions and tigers with "a Nerkle, a Nerd, and a Seersucker too." Nerkle was completely made up, seersucker was from an ancient Hindi word, and Nerd was somewhere in the middle; it was allegedly a modification of the exclamation nerts!, which meant "crazy" and would have originated from the earlier phrase nuts. In any event, the new word Nerd quickly became an American colloquialism for a person who was boring or goofy, and this (dropping its capitalization along the way), transmuted into the description of suspender-wearing superintelligent dorks, since they're both "boring" and "goofy".
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.