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How do you call the kind of people who either work in IT or spend a lot of time with this kind of stuff?

The only word I’ve found is Streber but it seems to have a negative connotation (like nerd).

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    The German word for geek is Geek. Or Computerfreak, if you must. But really, go with Geek. And hands off Streber, that has nothing to do with anything here. Not the same ballpark, not the same game, not the same sport. – RegDwight Jul 16 '15 at 14:24
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    Younger people definitely use nerd and geek. – inf Jul 17 '15 at 9:11
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    Techniker, Informatiker ‘computer scientist’, Computer-/IT-Leute/-Menschen or ITler where the capital letters can be spelt German /i.te/ or English /ai.ti/, but are never pronounced /it/. Bildschirmgebräunte. – Crissov Jul 17 '15 at 20:57
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    Unless you want to sound like a language learner or tourist, use the English terms in Germany. Except you want to talk about Germans. All but elderly people use Geek & Nerd for geeks & nerds. Also IT-Experte. Streber & Freak are used in a rather derogatory manner. IT-Freak / Computer-Freak is someone who is too obsessed and spends too much time with it. Maybe also -Fuzzi, -Heini, both with negative connotations similar to a Hampelmann who may overcomplicate things. – Archimedix Jul 18 '15 at 4:25
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    In Danish the words like "computer" and "nerd" that we borrow from English, tend to have a much more narrow meaning than originally in English. Example: "Mail" now mean an e-mail and only that. Interesting though that "Streber" in German has very close to the same meaning as the word "Stræber" in Danish - along with unfortunate connotations and all. – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Jul 19 '15 at 7:55

10 Answers 10

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Unfortunately another area where little understood English terms have taken the cake.

  • Geek: originally a person biting heads off of small animals
    • The subspecies technology geek is what is known in German as der Geek
    • Indirectly related to jeck (often heard during carnival season) - fool, jester ...
    • Reminds one of der Elf/die Elfe while the German word Alb/Alp already existed by the time
  • Freak: directly translatable to German as Missgeburt (monstrosity), however often used especially by young people with a positive connotation.
  • Nerd: allegedly the pronunciation you end up with when you reverse “drunk”, but origins unclear

Some hold there is an inherent difference between geek and nerd, to which geek/nerd website XKCD responded with this Venn diagram.

If you were looking for a genuinely German word you’d be out of luck I reckon, because all alternatives contain word parts that are not originally of Germanic heritage.

Possibilities I would consider:

  • Computer-Profi kind of implies a professional relation to the interest, though
    • If you’d substitute Computer for the the German word Rechner above it would sound totally weird
  • Computer-Spezi (Spezi from Spezialist) can obviously also be assigned to people that otherwise don’t qualify as technology geek/nerd
    • However: as pointed out in comments, Spezi is also used in Southern Germany (particularly Bavarian regions) and Austria for a friend.
  • EDV-Spezi
  • EDVler (EDV = Elektronische Datenverarbeitung; roughly: electronic data processing) from my experience would be less used than (but equally legit as) ITler (with the acronym pronounced as in English … Ei-tie-ler)
  • Computerfreak: is no less pejorative than Streber in my book.

Except for Computerfreak these are relatively neutral (i.e. not pejorative).

A good alternative for Spezi above would also be Guru (of the same meaning it carries in English), i.e. Computerguru, IT-Guru and … somewhat awkward sounding … EDV-Guru. Guru also came up in another answer as well as one comment to this answer. One remark there was that it carries a religious connotation. I agree, but in the form of Computerguru I’d see the aspect of a knowledgeable person and teacher to be predominant. But it’s arguably a subjective matter.


As for Streber. It doesn’t fit at all. However, I can see how you ended up with this word. The traits of a person that qualifies as a geek/nerd often coincide with those of a Streber. And I’d hold that Geek and Nerd when used in German can hold an equally pejorative meaning, depending on the context.

It is also a misconception to assume that technology geek = geek. In that sense one might consider the “eingedeutschte” Geek a false friend (as German English teachers call it), as the German use of the word is almost exclusively attached to people with special interests in technology. In English you can easily have science geeks etc. Not to mention “hybrid” forms in people of various interests.

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    Spezi/Spezl for me is exclusively a friend - I would not ever have thought of specialist. Learning something new every day :) guess it is regional... – Gerhard Jul 16 '15 at 20:03
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    I don’t think Freak is normally negative (in German). – chirlu Jul 16 '15 at 20:23
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    Spezi ist m.W. ein weit gebräuchliches Wort für Freund in Süddeutschland/Österreich. Als Spezialist hätte ich das nie gelesen. Neben Freak war auch Guru lange gebräuchlich. Freak ist m.E. seit den späten 60ern für Drogennehmer, abgedrehte und überdrehte Typen gebräuchlich, nicht notwendig abwertend und auch gebräuchlich als Selbstbezeichnung (Freak-Brothers). Ein Streber ist m.E. autoritätshörig, gefallsüchtig, angepasst und opportunistisch. Der Geek dagegen ist leidenschaftlich an seinem Stoff interessiert und bekommt zwar auch gute/beste Noten, aber aus anderen Motiven als d. Streber. – user unknown Jul 17 '15 at 2:32
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    @inf: okay, take the English word knuckle, right? The k in it is silent. Now take the word drunk and reverse it, yielding knurd. Attempt to pronounce that already as you normally would in English. Since the k is silent again you'd end up with the pronunciation that you also find in the differently spelled nerd. Hope that helps. It's just one theory how the word came about. Kind of playing with the stereotype that nerds are the ones abstaining from parties and therefore not being drunk "ever". – 0xC0000022L Jul 17 '15 at 9:12
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    Did I miss a/the clear-cut translation of "Non techies giving a negative moniker to computer-techies". In the sense of "these nerds/dweebs know computers but maybe not how to tie their own schuhe". It may also be that this stereotype were typically American. – javadba Jul 17 '15 at 21:03
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A neutral term would be ITler or, more German, EDVler, which is very broad. If people spend a lot of time with computers, they’re often called Computerfreak – I, however, don’t know whether it is still current. I know it from C64 times, when it was something special to have a computer.

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    Could be just my perception, but isn't EDVler getting an endangered species, supplanted by the ITler? – Stephie Jul 16 '15 at 16:27
  • @Stephie You forgot to mention that the ITler species meanwhile evolved into the IMCler species… Irgendwass Mit Computer. :) – e-sushi Jul 16 '15 at 19:49
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The word Streber is typically found in a school context and describes a person that is not very well loved and that spends a lot of time learning, with a primary goal of pleasing the teachers.

A Geek, Computerfreak, ITler, or sometimes Nerd is a person interested in the matter (or at least spending a lot of time with it, which typically correlates), but the word does not imply that the person is not much loved.
It does often imply that the speaker finds the person described as such a bit strange, though, especially when the words used are Geek or Nerd.

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    I knew "Computerfreak" long before "Geek" or "Nerd". – Ludi Jul 16 '15 at 16:19
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    A Streber is not necessarily someone who spends a lot of time learning. They called me "Streber" when I went to school, but I did spend very little time in learning, and in many subjects (like english, history, geography, but also sports) I always had very bad grades. But I was best of class in mathematics, physics and chemistry (as said before: without learning at home). I was just interested in those subjects, and therefore I sometimes even knew more then the teachers, and this was why they called me a »Streber«. – Hubert Schölnast Jul 16 '15 at 16:34
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If the person holds a degree in computer science or a related field I would go with "Informatiker".

If you have a personal/close relation to the person you can go with "Nerd" which is usually not offensive just like "Geek" (However people might not know what a Geek is, since this word is not popular in Germany).

If you are in a professional enviroment I would go with the role/job description of that person. Say thinks like "Entwickler"(developer), "Admin"(administrator) and "Integrator" (system integrator).

If the person does not work in this field but does programming for fun you could use "Programmierer" or even "Hobbyprogrammierer" (to point out that he is doing it for fun/in his free time and not for a living)

If you want to describe someone without knowing his specialisation or don't want to point it out I would go with one of these:

  • (Computer) Experte
  • (Computer) Spezialist
  • (Computer) Guru

(I would use them in that order. "Guru" has a somewhat religious meaning)


I would not suggest using "EDVler". Everyone who uses some office applications for work could be described as EDVler. ITler is a bit closer to what you are trying to say but just states that the person is somewhat related to "Informationstechnologie" in general and does not provide any information about his expertise or activities.

  • more than a religious meaning I'd associate the teacher aspect with Guru. I also don't see any difference in meaning (albeit in awkwardness when using them) of the terms ITler and EDVler. Otherwise an excellent answer and +1. – 0xC0000022L Jul 17 '15 at 9:25
  • The parenthesized Computer could also be replaced by EDV . – guidot Jul 17 '15 at 14:39
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The common word for “geek” is „Geek”. An “IT guy” could be an „IT-Mensch“.

  • IT-Mensch? Wirklich? – user unknown Jul 17 '15 at 2:34
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    @userunknown: actually it's true. You hear IT-Mensch often from people who have no connection to the topic and lack the understanding to be more specific. It's their way of being specific without exposing themselves to ridicule when using terms they don't understand. I have heard this term several times. – 0xC0000022L Jul 17 '15 at 9:26
  • It is of course meant to be colloquial as in „unser IT-Mensch“. – Carsten S Jul 17 '15 at 9:29
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Progger wenn die Person wirklich programmiert. Kann eventuell norddeutsch sein.

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I’d suggest „Technik Checker“ / „Computer Checker“ / „PC Checker“ to describe someone who spends a huge amount of their time “doing computer things”, or whose friends believe is good at technical things (electronic, not mechanical). This would mainly be used among male youths. It does not sound pejorative to me.

  • I like your mention of Checker. Although it is not standard German, it is never used with a negative connotation . – Ludi Jul 23 '15 at 12:15
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In Austria and Bavaria they say IT Mokel for a IT guy.

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    I'm from Austria and work in IT but I never heard IT Mokel. Any specific region in Austria? – 5pike Jul 17 '15 at 9:20
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    I heard it from people from Vienna – Steffen Timm Jul 17 '15 at 9:21
  • You gotta love those Austrian terms. I for one cherish all the German dialects. It's one of the beauties of our (sometimes not so common) language. – 0xC0000022L Jul 17 '15 at 9:22
  • @SteffenTimm - Oh, very interesting. – 5pike Jul 17 '15 at 9:22
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    I live in the greater Vienna area, and have never heard it before. At the very least, it's not a common term. – Ingmar Jul 17 '15 at 16:53
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ITler: Umgangssprachlich für Personen, die in der IT Branche arbeiten. (Colloquial language: for the people who work in the IT sector.)

  • Aussprache auf Englisch? – c.p. Jul 18 '15 at 10:01
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What about "Fachidiot"? Maybe a little pejorative?

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    A little? Do you think? – Ingmar Jul 17 '15 at 15:58
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    Fachidiot ist auch nicht auf IT / Computer beschränkt. – Robert Jul 17 '15 at 18:59

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