By Mark Nichol
There are a lot of terms used to identify a beginner — many of them condescending or derogatory, so pay attention to connotation before employing any of these synonyms:
1. Abecedarian (from the Latin term abecedarius, “of the alphabet,” coined from linking the first four letters of the alphabet with vowels to form a pronounceable word): One in the early stages of learning.
2. Amateur (from the Latin term amator, “lover”): Someone who engages in an area of skill or expertise without remuneration, or, derogatorily, a person without experience or ability.
3. Apprentice (from the Latin term apprendere, “to learn”): One in the midst of hands-on training; originally denoting someone bound by a contract to train with a craftsperson, but now employed simply to refer to someone inexperienced. The term is used in a naval enlisted rank (“seaman apprentice”) and for the lowest level in Freemasonry (“entered apprentice”).
4. Babe (from the Middle English word coined in imitation of baby talk): An inexperienced person, with a condescending connotation of naivete.
5. Boot (from Anglo-French bote, “boot”): A US Navy or US Marine Corps recruit, perhaps from “boot camp”). Condescending.
6. Colt (from the Old English term for a young horse): A young, inexperienced person. Condescending.
7. Cub (from the word for a young animal): A young, inexperienced person, as in the expression “cub reporter,” referring to a new journalist. Condescending.
8. Fledgling (ultimately from Old English fleogan, “to fly”): Originally, use was confined to the literal meaning of “a young bird just learning to fly”; now, it is also a rare informal, condescending term for a young, inexperienced person (and is used to refer to a new enterprise).
9. Freshman (derived from fresh, as in “new to a situation,” and man): Originally referred only to a first-year student; now also denotes a politician or an athlete at the beginning of their career.
10. Greenhorn (from an obsolete English word referring to the new horns of a young horned mammal): Refers not only to a naive, inexperienced person but also to someone unfamiliar with customs or procedures. Condescending.
11. Layperson (from the Latin term laikos, “of the people”): A non-gender-specific variation of layman, originally denoting someone who is not a member of the clergy but now a general reference to someone who is not part of a particular profession or does not have expertise in a given subject matter.
12. Neophyte (from the Latin term neophytus, “newly planted” or “newly converted,” from the Greek word neophytos): A beginner or a convert. Mildly condescending.
13. Newbie (a diminutive noun derived from new): A person new to a place or situation, especially one unfamiliar with the conventions and etiquette of online interaction; a newer diminutive of this slang term is noob (or n00b, using zeros instead of the letter o, a variation often used in online conversation). Condescending or even derogatory.
14. Newcomer (a compound noun formed from new and come): Originally, one newly arrived to a location, but now a beginner in general.
15. Novice (from the Latin term novicius, “newly imported”): Originally, a probationary member of a religious organization, now generally someone with rudimentary skills. Depending on context, can be condescending.
16. Novitiate (see novice, above): A variation of novice, as well as a word for the condition of being a clerical novice, or the name of their residence.
17. Proselyte (from the Latin term proselytus, “foreign resident,” derived from the Greek word proselytos): A recent convert.
18. Probationer (from the Latin term probare, “approve”): Someone in the process of learning.
19. Punk (origin obscure): A young, inexperienced person, though it also has connotations pertaining to punk subculture and to sexuality. Derogatory.
20. Recruit (from the French term recrute, derived from recroistere, “to grow up again”): A newcomer; often used in a military or similar context. The term is used in the lowest naval enlisted rank (“seaman recruit”). Depending on context, can be condescending.
21. Rookie (uncertain; perhaps derived from recruit): One in his or her first year or years of experience, originally in the context of professional sports but now general in usage. (The back-formation rook is rare.) Depending on context, can be condescending.
22. Tenderfoot (a combination of tender and foot): Originally, someone new to a frontier area, unused to hardship; in the modern sense, a beginner. Condescending.
23. Trainee (from the Latin term traginare, “to draw” or “to train”): One learning a job or skill.
24. Tyro (from the Latin term tiro, “young soldier”): An inexperienced person.
25. Virgin (from the Latin term virgo, “young woman, virgin”): Originally a specific reference to a female with no sexual experience, now used lightheartedly to refer to someone new to a situation.
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8 Responses to “25 Synonyms for “Beginner””
- Tony Hearn
11. Not quite.
Via French ‘lai’, from Latin ‘laicus’ from the Greek ‘laikos’ , ‘of the people’.
20. Again. not quite. From the French term ‘recrute’, but ultimately from the Latin ‘recrescere’ via Old French ‘recroistre’, ‘to grow again’.
- michael h singh
when i ‘clicked” 25 synonmys for beginners…i had this preconcieved thought that words you posted would suggest ‘simple”, i was wrong. Truth be told, only 5 words were firmiliar to me.
Great Site though, learned alot and would recommend to friends.
Keep up the good work. Reagrds Michael H Singh
- Retta McSweeney, M.Ed.
Why do you continue to use “a lot” in your teaching for fledgling writers? It is poor English. Get “a lot” out of your head forever.
Your opening sentence above could have read:
“Many terms are used to identify a beginner” or
“Several terms are used to identify a beginner.”
The same goes for “I’ve got”, “you’ve got”, and so on. Rid yourself of these terms if you intend to correctly teach the language.
- Mark Nichol
I usually do begin sentences with more active, formal introductory phases such as you suggest, and I have written a post that prominently advises readers to do so, but I don’t think it is necessary to banish “a lot” altogether. It is not appropriate for formal writing, but though I strive for erudition in these posts, I occasionally adopt a conversational tone.
And, as you write, the same goes for “I’ve got” and “You’ve got.” These three phrases are idiomatic, and a language bereft of idiom is bereft of life.
- Nicholas Goodman, M.A. English
Mark is a lot more tactful than I would be.
You might want to watch out for those split infinitives.
Mark, No need to be bereft.
Born again is the ultimate in naivete, uh, I mean nativity.
Hopping [sic] to hear from you Jewish guys more.
You’re so smart.
- Joseph Cardona
An up and coming presentation of figures of speech, figurative us of language. I agree irony stands so close to sarcasm, eg, blood is thicker than water. It actually depends on what we have in mind.
‘What a splendid morning!’………..skies are heavily overcast;
a morning heavy with problems.
- Mark Mogridge
I came across this post when I was looking for synonyms for ‘virgin’ and ‘newbie’ and was fascinated by the origination of the words, and I liked the way you integrated the kind remarks from Mr Hearn. Thank you Mark.
But I was surprised at the bitchiness of two of the comments here, what bitter lives they lead.
Thank you again Mark.