Does freak have negative connotations when it's used to describe a person who's very or overly interested in something?

Like football freak or coding freak.

  • Islamic fundamentalists nothwithstanding, it's a bit like fanatic - much might depend on how you feel about the thing they're obsessed by (or the desirability of being that obsessed by anything). But freak is very informal, making it a bit more like the shortened version fan - except that usually means a passive supporter, rather than an active participant. Commented Dec 19, 2014 at 18:58
  • I tend to use freak as short for freak of nature and I apply it to someone who is unusually good at the subject. Therefore a coding freak is someone whose skill is way above the norm: "Man, Bill is a really good programmer." "Yeah, he is a coding freak. He's easily as productive as 3 normal guys."
    – Jim
    Commented Dec 19, 2014 at 19:01
  • Note that if someone says "I'm not a freak!", you can be more or less 100% certain they're defending themselves against some negative categorisation. Not complaining or modestly / facetiously describing the lack of a desirable attribute, as in "I'm not a genius!" or "I'm not God!". Commented Dec 19, 2014 at 19:04
  • It's hard to say exactly whether a word like that is offensive or not. For example, there are some people (although fewer now than there used to be) who would consider "nerd" and "geek" to be insults with negative connotations, while other people consider them neutral descriptors similar to "fan," and still others view them as positive descriptors. I'd imagine you'd find a similar spectrum of opinions when it comes to the connotation of "freak" in the context you've described.
    – Nicole
    Commented Dec 19, 2014 at 19:41

2 Answers 2


Once again it depends upon context. There is not much negative implications for the two examples you cite, but in other cases, such as "control freak", there might be. And it's a descriptor which is probably best used in less formal contexts.

  • This is why I added meaning-in-context tag to the question. I understand from your answer that it doesn't mean or imply bad in this context!
    – hfatahi
    Commented Dec 19, 2014 at 19:04
  • Unless the person so described does not like the word. @hfatahi
    – pazzo
    Commented Dec 19, 2014 at 22:44

It is the seventh meaning listed for freak in the OED (sense 4d). An alternative word is aficionado.

There is no suggestion of it being negative.

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