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See also: Wonk



American English student slang 1954;[1] perhaps navy slang before that. "Expert" sense popularized in the Clinton administration, 1993. Origin uncertain, possibly from wonky (shaky, unreliable) or wank, wanker[2] or simply expressive.


wonk (plural wonks)

  1. (derogatory, informal) An overly studious person, particularly a student.
    Synonyms: nerd; see also Thesaurus:dork
    • 2014, Catherine Sheldrick Ross, Pleasures of Reading, The: A Booklover's Alphabet, page 53:
      Previously, e-reading had been the domain of early adopters and new technology wonks.
  2. (by extension, informal) A policy wonk or other intellectual expert.
    • 2014 March 14, Dean Baker, “Paul Ryan isn't the wonk of Washington – it's time to listen to more good ideas”, in The Guardian[1]:
      This is the sort of standard that the Paul Ryans of the world trumpet to their constituents, to potential campaign contributors and to their peers in Congress. They become “budget wonks” and political superstars, even if their proposals are bound to go nowhere.

Derived terms[edit]



  1. ^ Michael Quinion (1996–2023), “Wonk”, in World Wide Words.
  2. ^ Douglas Harper (2001–2023), “wonk”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.,

Further reading[edit]