A person who is not formally enrolled as a student, researcher or faculty in some university or college but who takes interest in exploring academic topics/stuff. For e.g. Such a person could be someone who is working in the corporate & has interest in & explores his academic fields. What could be a simple, 'easy for all to understand' term to refer to this person?

I believe there is, perhaps, no easy single word for that, I can accept answers which propose a phrase that can describe this in a short and better way (must be easy for anyone to understand).

A not-so-good example: "A learner or academic enthusiast".

10 Answers 10


How about independent scholar?


Actually, the word "student" need not mean "one who is enrolled in formal studies," but can mean only "one who studies."1 This latter sense can be invoked by saying, "a student of X." When you call someone just "a student," though, you do say that they are enrolled somewhere.

Though wholly without formal education, he was a keen student of history.

  • I should add that I don't, admittedly, have a single word to capture exactly what you are describing ("autodidact" means someone who is entirely self-taught, which may not be exactly what you want,) but I can see no reason why it should have to be a single word instead of a phrase. – Evan Harper Dec 4 '11 at 22:00
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    yes but generally when we think of the word student, we generally assume that the person must be affiliated with some academic body/ institution, so I am looking for something which is more easily understood by general audience and not just english experts – Rajat Gupta Dec 4 '11 at 22:02
  • I said that "I can accept phrases.. " (also referred to an example phrase) :) – Rajat Gupta Dec 4 '11 at 22:03
  • Pardon me for missing "I can accept phrases." The second sense of "student" is quite common and will be understood by most general audiences, not only experts. There may not be an elegant way to say what you want if we are assuming an audience with limited English comprehension. – Evan Harper Dec 4 '11 at 22:04
  • Actually there may be people who are now working in the corporate & have interest in & explore their academic fields but we can't really refer to them as students, I am actually trying to seek a phrase that could be used for such type of audience. – Rajat Gupta Dec 4 '11 at 22:10

You can use dilettante, but it sounds kinda derogatory.

In the engineering fields, enthusiast has become quite common too; see here for an example.


Are you looking for autodidact?

The first part auto means 'self', and didact means 'taught', so an autodidact is one who is self taught.

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    yes this is a bit narrower than what I'm seeking but still closer but not really useful for me. Anyways thanks. Do suggest if you can think of some other simpler phrases with somewhat broader domain. – Rajat Gupta Dec 4 '11 at 21:59
  • "Easily for all to understand"? You jest. – David Feb 25 '17 at 20:48

There are several senses of scholar that fit the bill:

One who educates themself for their whole life.

One who learns anything: as, an apt scholar in the school of deceit.

One engaged in the pursuits of learning.

  • Hee, hee -- a down-vote? I'd love to see an explanation... – Gnawme Dec 6 '11 at 7:51
  • Why should a scholar not be a regular student/ researcher? – Kris Dec 7 '11 at 11:41
  • You understand that I'm answering the specific question posed above, yes? – Gnawme Dec 7 '11 at 17:09
  • I don't any explanation coming forth yet for the down vote you mentioned. – Kris Dec 8 '11 at 3:09
  • @Kris That's OK, I'm just curious – Gnawme Dec 8 '11 at 5:02

I use "lifelong learner" when I'm talking about a person being engaged in and following up on whatever piques her curiosity.

  • But this doesn't imply a scholar to me. It implies more a retired person who goes to evening classes to keep his brain acitive, but does not necessary indulge in serious study. – David Feb 25 '17 at 20:51

I agree with Evan Harper that student is a fine word for this, but if it would be misleading in your context, try amateur student. This contrasts nicely with professional student, which refers to someone who continues in university for a long time either earning multiple degrees or taking a long time to finish one.


I'm very new here and was quite intrigued by this question, as well as the subsequent thread. The single word or concise phrase is one I find myself 'grasping for' more often than I realized, until I read you ask it here.

Although my reply is nothing more than a combination of 2 others given here, I think the phrase "a lifelong student, even if autodidactic," is a wonderful description to both describe and draw an innocent curiosity of what the education entailed. If lifelong is not accurate, I'm sure any measure of time would suffice.

Of course, this is all to say, I'm unsure of what it's being used for; so it may not be relative to your needs or even far too late to be helpful. In any event, I thought I'd throw in a pair of pence. :)


Amateur could be used in this context, if applied to a specific field.

Chambers (iPhone version):

  1. An enthusiast or admirer

Although it is usually used in contrast to ‘professional’ (e.g. “He was an amateur of Ecudorian butterflies”) it could equally be used to indicate someone was not pursuing professional studies (i.e. was not a student) in a particular area.


An Academic enthusiast is someone who picks interest in diverse academic subjects.

  • The question says: 'A not-so-good example: "A learner or academic enthusiast".' It seems to me that the OP already decided against using this expression. – Laurel Jan 14 '18 at 19:09

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