I wonder how the following words for describing someone who knows many different things compare, and when to use which word. Some are adjectives, others are nouns:

  • renaissance
  • polymath
  • versatile
  • aficionado
  • ... (possibly others if you don't hesitate to mention)

Some background:

  1. I encountered "aficionado" and "versatile" from a personal description here

    "It's getting harder and harder for me to believe that you're just a hobbyist. Aficionado would be a better term. And a damn versatile one at that!"

  2. When I told some American I hoped to be polymath, he said they would use "Renaissance" instead.
  • @Theta30: Likely. What about "Renaissance man" then?
    – Tim
    Commented Jan 13, 2012 at 5:50
  • You should have looked these words up in OALD and also googled them for more info. Each one is fit in its context, in its own way.
    – Kris
    Commented Jan 13, 2012 at 6:53
  • well rounded, well educated, brilliant Commented Apr 19, 2015 at 5:03

3 Answers 3


Renaissance is usually talked about in relation with the Renaissance Period. Though it may be used in this sense, I guess, but I am not sure if it is advisable.

Polymath is adequate. But please note that it usually implies that a person is an expert in several different subjects, you cannot become a polymath if you only know many subjects. Also, polymath is also used for someone who is very knowledgeable, which in this case is also applicable, so another +1 for Polymath.

Versatile is defined as begin capable of or adapted for turning easily from one to another of various tasks, fields of endeavor etc. So basically it means a person who is adaptable, can easily do tasks of a different nature. It may be used in this case, but note it, by using it you will be praising the adaptability of the person instead of his knowledge.

Aficionado is someone who is very knowledgeable and an expert in a subject. But in this case you are only referring to the person's expertise in one subject. It isn't usually used when talking about a person's skills in many subjects, which is the case.

  • When I told some American I wished to be polymath, he said they would use "Renaissance" instead.
    – Tim
    Commented Jan 13, 2012 at 5:25
  • I encountered "Afrionado" and "versatile" from a personal description here
    – Tim
    Commented Jan 13, 2012 at 5:27
  • Well, the only uses I know of "Renaissance" are either related to rebirth / revival, or the Renaissance Period. But different countries use words differently, I only know British English, so I am not sure about how Americans use the word "Renaissance". Commented Jan 13, 2012 at 5:31
  • Aficionado usual infers a hobby or personal-lifelong-passion level interest, not merely a professional day job interest in a subject area. An aficionado of World War 1 history is not likely to be a World War 1 History Professor, but rather is a regular guy with a history-buff hobby.
    – Warren P
    Commented Feb 15, 2012 at 21:40
  • @IntermediateHacker: Someone with only a superficial understanding of the Renaissance Period (gained primarily by being interested in Leonardo out of teenage mutant ninja turtles, perhaps) might suppose that the defining characteristic of the age was that everyone then was knowledgeable about everything. Commented Feb 15, 2012 at 22:42

Really, the word "Renaissance" should be replaced with the term "Renaissance Man". Because in American English the word "Renaissance" means the same thing both in denotation and connotation as it does in British English. Which, of course, has nothing in and of itself to do with an appraisal of expertise. However, the term "Renaissance Man" refers to a cultured man who has "acquired profound knowledge or proficiency in more than one field." (dictionary.com) Quintessential examples of this would be Leonardo da Vinci (artist/anatomist/visionary) or Benjamin Franklin (printer/writer/statesman/diplomat/scientist/inventor).




A: He's doing your taxes? Isn't he also your lawn guy? B: Shawn? Yeah but he's a jack. He can do all kinds of sh*t.

  • 3
    Welcome to ELU. Could you explain how "Jack" is relevant? Answers should not just be opinion. Your use doesn't appear to feature in any of Oxford's definitions.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Mar 29, 2017 at 21:35
  • 2
    @AndrewLeach Maybe the user meant "Jack of all trades", which is featured in your linked dictionary.
    – NVZ
    Commented Mar 30, 2017 at 10:59

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