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".
Adam Aleksic is a 219-month-old, 2800-ounce high school senior with disturbing interests in etymology, vexillology, geography, board games, limericks, and law. Adam is awaiting his college rescissions and loves writing about himself in the third person.
The Etymology Nerd