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Amateur vs Dilettante vs Dabbler vs Tyro

Amateur, Dilettante, Dabbler and Tyro denote a person who follows a pursuit without attaining proficiency or a professional status.

Amateur may denote one who has a taste or liking for something rather than an expert knowledge of it; in this sense it is distinguished from connoisseur.

  • an amateur of cameos
  • affected the pose of the gentleman amateur of the arts
    F. H. Ellis

Amateur is also applied to a person whose participation in an activity requiring skill is due to a personal rather than a professional interest. It usually but not invariably implies a lack of mastery. This latter implication is not often found in sports, where a technical distinction between an amateur (one who competes without remuneration) and a professional (one who competes for reward) prevails. In other use the word is opposed to expert and adept, as well as professional. Sometimes it suggests lack of experience or apprenticeship.

  • every artist was first an amateur

Sometimes it connotes indulgence in a particular pursuit as a pastime or as an avocation.

  • how could an amateur venture out and make an exhibition of himself after such splendid rowing!

Very often, especially in contrast to expert or adept, it connotes superficiality, bungling, or indifference to professional standards.

  • it is beginning to be hinted that we are a nation of amateurs
  • the third earl of Shaftesbury . . . illustrated this unsystematic method of thinking. He was an amateur, an aristocratic amateur, careless of consistency

Dilettante is applied to an amateur (in the older underogatory sense of that word) in the fine arts (see AESTHETE). It stresses enjoyment rather than effort, a frittering rather than a concentration of one's energies, and, sometimes, the point of view of the aesthete.

  • the dilettante lives an easy, butterfly life, knowing nothing o f . . . toil and labor
  • we continue to respect the erudite mind, and to decry the appreciative spirit as amateurish and dilettante

Dabbler implies a lack of serious purpose, but it suggests desultory habits of work and lack of persistence.

  • your dabblers in metaphysics are the most dangerous creatures breathing
  • the certainty of touch which marks the difference between an artist and the dabbler . . . can come only after patient study

Tyro does not necessarily imply youth but does suggest comparable inexperience or audacity with resulting incompetence or crudeness.

  • it may be fancy on the part of a tyro in music to suggest that a change from poetry to prose occurs when Beethoven introduces in the last movement of the Choral Symphony . . . a subject in words
  • "a noble theme!" the tyro cried, and straightway scribbled off a sonnet. "A noble theme," the poet sighed, "I am not fit to write upon it"