I mainly associate scholar with scholarship. But what's its etymological origin? On scientific websites both scholar and scientist seem to be used with the same meaning; A graduate working actively on a scientific topic. Is it a AE/BE thing or does scholar imply the graduate is doing a phd/postdoctoral degree or gets financial aid (scholarship).

Also, how do these terms relate to researcher? You don't need an academic degree to be a researcher, e.g. a journalist does research before writing an article. But in my opinion researcher also often implies someone has an academic degree. Is this right?

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    You have a lot of questions here. Do you think you can pare them down to get better answers? – simchona Aug 7 '11 at 20:49
  • @simchona im asking for correct context of scholar/scientist/researcher as they are used in a synonymous way imo. Where are there a lot of questions? Its one, the rest are my assumptions and hints that might play a role and may be considered when writing a answer... – Hauser Aug 7 '11 at 21:04
  • You ask for the etymology of "scholar", what "scientist" implies, how "scientist" and "scholar" and "researcher" relate, and what a "researcher" is. – simchona Aug 7 '11 at 21:07
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    @simchona Of course? As all these questions contribute to the differentiation of these terms as thursagen answer shows.It makes only sense TO ME to bundle these sub-nearly-questions in one complete question instead of making 5 separate ones probably yielding no votes and answers as uninteresting.Otherwise you say its ok to make for every etymological origin/word meaning question a thread here instead of simply looking it up in a dictionary?Im ONLY asking on usage in context, necessarily imho the answer on this single question will regard all my sub questions and more to yield the best answer. – Hauser Aug 7 '11 at 21:47

"Scientist" is used when referring specifically to a person who is an expert in a science, especially physical or natural sciences.

"Scholar" is more broad, and can be used generally for anyone who has profound knowledge of a particular subject.

"Scholar" isn't used for sciences (chemistry, geography), but can be used for History, Language, etc. Examples of this are:

Geography scholar?/Wrong.
Language scholar - Yes.
Psychology scholar - Wrong.(Psychology is a science)
Greek scholar - Correct.

Thus, "scholar" is only used for someone who is an expert at a particular subject, when the subject is not a science.

An additional meaning of "scholar" is:

a student who has been awarded a scholarship.

Thus, yes, "scholar" can also be used when referring to students who have received scholarships, as you asked.

Your second question below:

A "researcher" implies someone who is doing scientific research specifically as a vocation e.g. I am a researcher at Harvard University. If someone like a journalist was just doing research for an article, he wouldn't be referred to as a researcher, but rather as "A journalist researching".

A "researcher" could be a scientist, or a scholar. A Biblical scholar could be a researcher at a seminary. A chemist could be a researcher at a pharmacist. But when referring to the person, it doesn't matter if he/she is a scientist or a scholar, just use "researcher".

  • Someone please comment on why this was down-voted? – Thursagen Aug 7 '11 at 21:28
  • Maybe someone disagreed with your originally cursory definitions? (It wasn't me) – simchona Aug 7 '11 at 21:31
  • Cursory definitions? as in what? – Thursagen Aug 7 '11 at 21:34
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    Perhaps someone thinks "geography scholar", "chemistry scholar", etc. are OK? – GEdgar Aug 7 '11 at 23:59
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    'Scholar' certainly is used for someone outside of the humanities (check the definition you linked to). 'Scholar' standing by itself does have the connotation of reading quite a bit, which is not the scientist's primary source of knowledge. See the following Google ngram comparing 'history' and 'psychology'. 'History' wins, but 'psychology' actually has a showing (see examples there to confirm). – Mitch Aug 8 '11 at 16:49

Scholar: from the Ancient Greek scoulari; noun for "skeptic".


Theoretical sciences require the scientist to be a scholar. Applied sciences do not. For example, the famous physics lectures by Richard Feynman require being a scholar to grasp them. Science and art were only separated in our culture in the late 1800s. Prior to that it was a well known career description, including in the U.S., to be an artist-engineer. John Wesley Powell still fit that description after the Civil War. Farther back, for example, Leonardo Da Vinci was formally an artist-engineer. Today, in the U.S. there is a foolish conceit that there can no more "Renaissance Men"...

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    This is complete rubbish. – user24964 Jan 10 '14 at 17:27

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