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What is the meaning of the word 'amateur' and how is the amateur compared with the professional in this article on computing.


They are “punching above their weight” in their dealings with larger competitors who are less exposed to these new skills and more restricted in their structures.

I was trying to find something on the 'amateur tradition' but I did not find what I was looking for. Although I did find an article in the Guardian that pointed out that many famous authors were 'part-timers'.

The woes of publishing make it easy to forget that Fielding, TS Eliot and others were part-timers


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closed as off topic by Mark Beadles, Mitch, Mahnax, FumbleFingers, tchrist Sep 5 '12 at 3:59

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See (more than one of) Plato's dialogs. Timaeus is probably the first one you should look at, then Meno. – Mitch Sep 5 '12 at 2:25
I saw this comment to one of my earlier questions: Amateurs and beginners don't usually know the limits, so they imagine bigger, fail more frequently, and learn more often. – cornbread ninja 4 mins ago – Robin Michael Sep 5 '12 at 2:26
This doesn't seem to be a question related to the English language as much as a philosophical matter. – Mark Beadles Sep 5 '12 at 2:35
I find it difficult to be objective and rational about a question that I have written. What sparked this question was a meta question: What is the role of non-experts on ELU? meta.english.stackexchange.com/questions/3054/… I know that there are contributors who enjoy word play and I thought that this question would give them plenty of scope for their hobby. – Robin Michael Sep 5 '12 at 3:03
@RobinMichael A good title states the question clearly and succinctly. Consider what exactly is the question you need answered and put that in your title. – MετάEd Sep 5 '12 at 15:44

An amateur is an enthusiast, a lover of the thing. You can actually see that in the root of the word, ama- (love).¹ Amateur is often used in opposition to professional because amateurs frequently work for the love of something, rather than for pay. There is nothing about amateur which automatically implies less expertise than a professional (academic or otherwise) might be expected to have. In context it might have that connotation, or might not. These two senses of the word can be found in the Oxford definition of the term:

1 a person who takes part in a sport or other activity for enjoyment, not as a job
The tournament is open to both amateurs and professionals.
2 (usually disapproving) a person who is not skilled

However the closely related adjective amateurish does have that connotation.

not done or made well or with skill
Detectives described the burglary as “crude and amateurish.”


  1. amateur (n.) 1784, "one who has a taste for (something)," from Fr. amateur "lover of," from L. amatorem (nom. amator) "lover," agent noun from amatus, pp. of amare "to love" (see Amy). Meaning "dabbler" (as opposed to professional) is from 1786. As an adjective, by 1838.
    Online Etymology Dictionary
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I recently had it pointed out to me that the literal meaning of "amateur" is one who loves doing a thing, but that was because I was using it as an antonym for "highly skilled professional". I think that connotation is common. – TecBrat Sep 5 '12 at 3:21
@TecBrat I agree. That is reflected in the Oxford definition in the clause "not as a job" and in my characterization of it as "rather than for pay". – MετάEd Sep 5 '12 at 3:27

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