I found a word, near-career filling in the following article of today’s New York Times titled Unusual Work, Even in World of the Theater.

Tom Santopietro has made a near-career filling in for other people on Broadway, not as an understudy, but as a substitute for house managers and company managers.

I also found a line using near-career in a site (City-Data Forum) that follows:

I also had my own military near-career so I moved even more. After living in seven other states, some of them more than once, and three other countries, I landed back in California 32 years ago and have stayed.

Judging from the context of those sentences, near-career job seems to me akin to probationary, or not full-fledged job.

What does near-career exactly mean?

3 Answers 3


Your interpretation is pretty much right. It's an uncommon phrase in my experience (in British English), but I would translate this phrase as:

Tom Santopietro has almost [nearly] made a career filling in for other people on Broadway

That is, this man has never actually had a career of doing this, but he does it so often that it might be considered a regular job (i.e. career).


I think it is not really used in the sense of almost having a career. Rather, I would interpret it as an occupation someone does which was never intended to be a full-time job (or career) but which takes as much time as one. The person's desire is to have a different career, but undertakes that particular occupation until something else (better?) comes along.

This is in the spirit of the adage "Experience is what we get while we are looking for something else."

  • I agree with this answer, especially in light of the context of @Yoichi's first example.
    – Jimi Oke
    Commented Jan 27, 2011 at 0:51
  • I'm tending to disagree with this. It makes sense, just not so much in the context.
    – Noldorin
    Commented Jan 27, 2011 at 1:10
  • Noldorin, Robusto, Jimi. Thanks for your joining me in answering my always primitive and often naive questions. Howeve, it's interesting to find newspapers like New York Times use the word even you guys who are English language maven don't come to perfect agreement, or don't even think it a received American English. Commented Jan 27, 2011 at 7:21

From your two examples, I would take near-career to mean either of the following:

  • a job or profession to which one almost devoted their lifetime (used in the past)
  • an occupation that one happens upon and excels in, with or without any previous training (used in the present)

Many words (some nouns, some adjectives) have been (and are still being) constructed in English by hyphenating or compounding near with another word. These are some of the established ones:

Near-career seems like a recent coinage; it's yet to be defined in the Urban Dictionary! With all these near[-] words, by keeping in mind the meanings of near and paying close attention to the context, one should always be able to infer the [rough] meaning.

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