24

Often in sports I hear of the "professionals" and the "weekend warriors" (people who otherwise have non-sports related jobs and work hard on the weekends to train themselves to participate).

I can't tell if this phrase is meant to be derogatory. Is it meant to mean "these people are warriors who, on top of everything, also train for their sport", or is it meant to mean "these people are just adding an interesting hobby on the weekends and aren't real contenders in this sport"?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – tchrist Sep 29 '19 at 19:13
  • This question is off-topic, because you have not show why you need to ask it, when it is covered in reputable dictionaries. Look, for instance, at the Urban Dictionary, Merriam Webster and the Cambridge English Dictionary (all on line). Look at all the examples that are given (there are plenty and they are generally well chosen), so that you can decide whether you think this expression is generally used positively or negatively or whether there are so many of each that you have to conclude that the usage is inconsistent. Having done this you might find a sharper question to ask. – Tuffy Oct 3 '19 at 15:53
  • @Tuffy: I'm not sure I agree, but I am new here. Since there have been conflicting answers, I think the question is valid and on-topic for an English Language Usage question/answer website. I'm open to a discussion on it, though. – Michael Stachowsky Oct 3 '19 at 16:18
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    ‘Off-topic’ has as one of its criteria that the questioner may not have shown the research s/he has carried out. That is why I suggested where you might look, hinting that this might lead you to a sharper and more interesting question. – Tuffy Oct 3 '19 at 16:21

12 Answers 12

24

Actually, no dictionary defines the expression as derogatory, for instance, from AHD:

weekend warrior n. Informal

One who enthusiastically engages in an activity or hobby on the weekends outside of regular employment:

  • "Despite the dangers, wreck divers are typically weekend warriors who leave families and jobs behind to test themselves at two hundred feet down" (New Yorker).
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – tchrist Sep 27 '19 at 14:36
  • Note that Jonathon Green, Chambers Slang Dictionary (2008) includes at least one seemingly denigrating sense the term; "anyone deemed to be insufficiently dedicated to a given activity or occupation." – Sven Yargs Sep 28 '19 at 19:20
35

The term is generally not derogatory, but, I have heard it used in a negative context.

I work in the medical profession and have often overheard the following conversation:

ER physician: Patient is a 44 year-old weekend warrior who tore his Achilles tendon playing basketball in the park.

Orthopedic surgeon: Have him follow up in my office after he gets an MRI. We'll evaluate for surgery.

In this context, weekend warrior isn't being used in admiration, but rather as an endictment of overstepping one's level of fitness with resultant injury. The tone of voice with which it's delivered is what adds the derogatory connotation.

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    I don't think your example is particularly negative; it's just giving important medical history (intermittent strenuous exercise, as opposed to more regular sustained training). I see no judgement in that. – Toby Speight Sep 26 '19 at 7:49
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    @TobySpeight in the world of medicine even the term Little Old Lady can be used in a disparaging manner. As I said, tone matters. – David M Sep 26 '19 at 13:09
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    An excellent real-world example. – Fattie Sep 26 '19 at 14:14
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    100% agree, you can tell by the tone. Same thing in IT. "Some road warrior called in complaining about his access again" vs "Dude is a total road warrior, has a hotspot with him everwhere he goes and commits code from the airplane." – msouth Sep 26 '19 at 17:43
26

In my experience, whether it is derogatory depends on context.

Earlier in my life, I was very much into a variety of sports (biking, climbing, martial arts), typically practicing whatever I was into around 5x a week. When I heard the words "weekend warrior", it generally was not used kindly:

"I can't stand riding the trails on Saturday because all they are all clogged up with weekend warriors, falling off their bikes every time they hit a pebble."

That's slight exaggeration, but not too far off. Within the circle who of those who take the sport seriously, weekend warriors who call themselves athletes are generally not held with high regard.

However, at this point in my life, I have a family and a career. I still do sports I like, but at a much lower frequency. I will happily refer to myself as a weekend warrior, because it's an accurate way to describe my level of participation (assuming you are okay with calling sports war).

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    This. In most cases, I'd consider it "affectionately derogatory". How far it leans toward affection vs. derogatory depends on context. – T.E.D. Sep 26 '19 at 15:05
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    Exactly. Referring to a hobbyist as a "weekend warrior" may be flattering or simply a colorful statement of accurate truth. Referring to someone who is professional or thinks they are a serious competitor as a "weekend warrior" is insulting. – TimothyAWiseman Sep 26 '19 at 15:58
  • The same applies in road cycling. I've heard it applied by former serious racers to those whose only experience of a peloton is on TV until they sign up for a sportive and then try to sit right on someone's wheel as if they were riding the TdF. – Chris H Sep 27 '19 at 10:27
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    Definitely depends on context. I snowboard & mountain bike, and in both those circles we throw that term around all the time. I would say it's more often not derogatory (there are other terms we'd use to roast someone), and generally refers to someone who is reasonably passionate about the sport/activity/etc., but is not in a position to ride every day. Many of the most committed "lifestyle" snowboarders I know would be WW, and they'd wear that badge with pride. – David Zemens Sep 28 '19 at 4:10
9

I've never encountered it used as a derogatory term. Usually it identifies people who give extra attention to something outside the work week to make up for "lost time".

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    I work for the National Guard, and I'm sure that's the origin of the phrase. In fact, I didn't know that the words were used to describe anybody else. "Weekend warriors" are Guard members who have regular jobs but go to training on weekends. Definitely not derogatory in that context as far as I know. – Literalman Sep 25 '19 at 14:53
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    Indeed, it does originate with the National Guard and the Reserves! It has been since been co-opted by anyone who sacrifices their weekend for a cause. – JRodge01 Sep 25 '19 at 14:54
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    I've never encountered this as not derogatory. IME, 'WWs' are the people actual Marines look the most down upon. A colloquial synonym IMO is fair weather fan, if not in this context of 'origin in the NG', draft dodger. None of those are good things. – Mazura Sep 25 '19 at 23:04
7

I always thought this phrase came from the UK's Territorial Army?

The TA is an army reserve where ordinary civilians are paid at standard soldier rates, and everything is as per the regular army, but they are only on duty:

  • One night per week
  • Alternate weekends
  • Two weeks per year

Unless called to operations in theatre, in which case they are paid full-time and are on duty full-time, just as regular soldiers.

For example, the UK has 3 SAS regiments, of which one is a TA regiment. These TA soldiers are literally "weekend warriors".

  • 3
    It's certainly often used of the TA, but whether it originated there is less clear. – Stuart F Sep 26 '19 at 10:21
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    I've heard of this comment for the US Army Reserves (with similar service schedule of two days every other weekend and two weeks a year). They are often derided by "regular army" as less equipped and less able to handle "real combat". e.g.:"They are just weekend warriors." – Keeta - reinstate Monica Sep 27 '19 at 13:09
3

In my experience, it is somewhat derogatory. (Unless you're talking about people in the National Guard.) It's someone who engages in a fairly strenuous activity requiring skill, but only on weekends &c, and who greatly exaggerates his/her level of skill/commitment.

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    As a retired National Guardsman, I more often heard it in a derogatory fashion about the NG/Reservists, from the full time soldiers. "We don't expect much out of them, they're only weekend warriors!" – CGCampbell Sep 26 '19 at 17:41
  • @CGCampbell: I suppose it depends on the point of view of the speaker - whether they're regular military or the general public. – jamesqf Sep 27 '19 at 3:06
  • CGCampbell has it right. The phrase was originally used by US Army soldiers to refer to US National Guard soldiers. The Army guys are in it 24/7 365. The National Guard guys are in it two weeks a year and scattered weekends. – JRE Sep 27 '19 at 8:35
  • And, yes, it was derogatory in that usage. – JRE Sep 27 '19 at 8:36
3

'Weekend warrior' in slang dictionaries

The earliest slang dictionary notice of "weekend warrior" that I've found is from Robert Chapman, New Dictionary of American Slang (1986), which treats it as interchangeable with "Sunday soldier":

Sunday soldier or weekend warrior n phr A military reservist or member of the National Guard, who typically goes on uniformed duty at the weekend

The same entry, garnished with an origin date of "(1950s+)," appears in the most recent (fourth) edition of Dictionary of American Slang (2007), which is a bit surprising, given that the English speakers have clearly extended usage of the term to apply to people who pursue various nonmilitary activities on an occasional or part-time basis.

Jonathon Green, Chambers Slang Dictionary (2008) captures this broader rage of meanings:

weekend warrior n. 1 {1960s+} (US) members of the National Guard. 2 {1970s+} anyone deemed to be insufficiently dedicated to a given activity or occupation. 3 {1980s} (Aus.) a member of the Australian Army's Reservist units. 4 {1980s} (US drugs) one who takes potentially addictive narcotic drugs on weekends (or similarly special occasions) only 5 see WEEKEND HO above ["{1970s+} (US black) ... 2 (also weekend warrior) an underage prostitute"].

U.S. slang dictionaries were rather slow to pick up on the existence of "weekend warrior" as a slang term for an military reservist. Indeed, the earliest "weekend X" term to appear in the Dictionary of American Slang series was "weekend hippie," in the second supplemented edition (1975):

weekend hippie = plastic hippie ["A part-time, or "week-end" hippie who likes to adopt on occasion hippie attire and mannerisms, but who is not committed to the hippie life-style or beliefs."]

From Green's definitions 2 and 4 and from the 1975 Dictionary of American Slang's definition of "weekend hippie," it appears that the modifier "weekend" (like the modifier "Sunday") often appears as a marker for someone who is not whole-heartedly committed to an activity, occupation, or lifestyle. Nevertheless, a weekend commitment isn't the same as no commitment—and it is certainly possible for people who don't devote any time to an activity, occupation, or lifestyle to acknowledge this in at least a somewhat respectful sense in their use of "weekend warrior."


The early days of 'weekend warrior'

As DavePhD notes in a comment beneath the posted question, circumstantial evidence suggests that "weekend warrior" may have originated in connection with U.S. Naval Air Reserve units. From "Bloomington Man on Annual Summer Trip," in the San Bernardino [California] Sun (August 6, 1950):

A member of the Naval Air Reserve's "Weekend Warrior" Fighter Squadron 776, C. B. Bell, aviation machinist's mate, of 636 Taylor street, Bloomington, is now on his annual summer cruise.

During this year's cruise, Bell's squadron is operating under simulated combat conditions, including gunnery, bombing and rocket firing, night flying and all other training phases.

And from "Reserve Pilot Killed in Crash in Berkeley Hills," in the Santa Cruz [California] Sentinel (January 22, 1951):

Berkeley, Jan. 22 (AP) — A graduate student of the University of California was killed yesterday afternoon when his naval reserve fighter plane crashed and burned on Grizzly Peak in the foothills just above the university campus here.

Dead is Lieut. V. J. MacNeilage, of Berkeley, a "weekend warrior" of the navy's organized reserve fighter squadron 873 at Oakland naval air station.

He was on a routine training flight when his F6F "Hellcat" fighter smashed into the 1759-foot peak in Tilden regional park on Berkeley's eastern boundary. A low overcast limited visibility at the time of the accident.

Whether the term "weekend warrior" was originally a derisive appellation attached to naval reservists by full-time U.S. Navy personnel or an admiring appellation attached to them by full-time civilians is impossible to tell from these instances; but it is clear from the way in which the term appears in quotation marks and initial caps in the "Bloomington Man" story that the reservists themselves proudly took semi-official ownership of it. Moreover, it would have been in incredibly poor taste for the "Reserve Pilot Killed" story to have alluded to the man who died as a "weekend warrior" if that term were widely viewed as a put-down in the early 1950s.

My sense is that "weekend warrior" was viewed as an honorable, if ironic, term for a reservist at this period—five or six years after the end of World War II and a year or two before the Korean War became a major conflict. As for today—when the term has evolved to refer to someone who seriously pursues some athletic or other physical activity away from work or school—the tenor of the expression can be admiring or self-effacing, or it can be belittling, depending on the speaker and the situation at hand. I have heard it used both ways.

  • Isn't there some way to control voting so obviously contrary to the spirit of ELU? Unsupported questions / answers automatically barred. – Edwin Ashworth Sep 28 '19 at 15:51
  • Yes, Green’s suggests a more derogatory usage. The examples supplied are from the 70s/80s early 90s so probably usage has changed in recent decades, but as mentioned in comment, it depends on the context. – user067531 Sep 29 '19 at 9:55
1

It is not inherently derogatory. I refer to myself as a "weekend warrior" for some activities that I do. As other posters have mentioned it is for someone who intensely engages in activities on the weekend. You can spend the same amount of time doing the same activity as a weekend warrior and still not be a weekend warrior because you don't engage as intensely, and do so only within an appropriate amount given your current level of conditioning.

When used as a slight, it means someone whose conditioning is not as good as it should be to engage in the activity to the degree that they do, often resulting in injury, but not always.

However it can also be a compliment for someone who trains during the week or is within their level of conditioning. I have a friend who participates in multiple marathons on weekends, he is a total "weekend warrior" but no one would use that term as a slight with him.

  • Indeed, after all simply the term "amateur" in sports can be used in a highly positive way, or, a derogatory way. – Fattie Sep 26 '19 at 17:34
1

I've always regarded the term as a synonym for dilettante which I've always felt has derogatory connotations.

1

The context I heard it most regularly was within the Military itself in reference to National Guard or Reserves. I don't recall any Active Duty Soldiers using the phrase. Mostly it was civilian dentists, doctors, engineers, managers or what not that happened to be a enlisted in a reserve capacity.

When one doctor was offered a leadership position during an exercise (they were assisting in training ROTC cadets), he replied, "No thanks. I do leadership during the week. I'm here to be a weekend warrior."

In reference to comments under jamesqf's answer, at the time i heard the phrase the National Guard and Reserves were practically full time. The Regulars' respect for them had increased because they really stepped up to fill the gap in Afghanistan and Iraq.

0

The only context I've ever heard the term "weekend warrior" used in was for someone whose weekdays are fully involved in going to school or work and so they have little or no time for fun or for partying, but then, on the weekends, they step away from all that and party extremely hard or go out and have extreme fun, doing so so extremely that they push well past what one would think anyone's physical and mental limits should be. It's as though they are on some kind of life-or-death, military mission to cram as much fun and partying into those days as is humanly possible in order to both blow off steam and in order to compensate for the extreme lack of fun they have during the week when all they do is work or study.

An example of a weekend warrior is some twenty-something college grad who works 70 or 80 hours a week in an office, always buttoned up and professional, but then from about 5:00 p.m. on Friday on, he's drinking and going to clubs and dancing and doing drugs and having sex and whatever else he can get into non-stop all weekend until he has to show up for work again on Monday morning at 8:00 a.m. all buttoned up and professional again.

0

To supplement the other answers, when I have most often heard the term around campgrounds, it is derogatory and refers to people with less skill/experience in the relevant activities. Folks referred to this way are also often less respectful of the norms and best practices around hiking and camping.

For example, such people are more likely to leave litter behind and leave orange peels, apple cores, paper towels, or cooking grease in the woods (even ignoring clearly posted "pack it in, pack it out" type signs), without recognizing the impacts of doing so especially in areas like campgrounds which have a lot more human activity than the baseline for a forest. They might also bring stereo systems and show relatively little respect for others' campsites.

In such contexts, people who respect local norms and best practices (and often even help clean up after others) are often not referred to with the term, even if they have day jobs that prevent them from participating in the activity during the week at that particular stage in their lives. Often, these are people who were more deeply involved with the activity at some prior stage in their lives.

Example usage: "There's a campground here at the foot of the mountain, but you don't want to go there. It's a lot closer to the road; generally populated by weekend warriors and such. Instead, you'll want to go a few miles up the valley to this other site."

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