What are the Meanings of Dilettante?

The word dilettante has its origin in the Italian language: dilettante, whose translation is linked to who “delights”. The concept usually refers to someone who is fond of some branch of science or art or who has great knowledge about it.

For example: “My grandfather is a very cultured and dilettante man whom I love to listen to”, “The channel is looking for a dilettante journalist to develop special programs and investigations”, “The author has always been mobilized by his dilettante spirit ” .

In this context, the idea of ​​a dilettante is associated with someone who has knowledge or who is trained to carry out certain actions and to offer their opinion on certain topics. That is why it is a positive rating for the one who receives it.

Another meaning of this uncommon term in everyday speech refers to a person who cultivates some field of knowledge, such as art, sports or the study of a language, or who shows a certain interest in it, but who He does not do it on a professional level but as an amateur. This does not necessarily carry a qualitative value that allows us to deduce the way in which the individual devotes himself to his passion, which is why, at first, calling him a «dilettante» does not present a positive or negative value.

Of course, given the structures to which the social system forces us to submerge ourselves, the image given by professional training is usually more respected than that of an amateur person, regardless of the degree of commitment and the skills of the dilettantes. For this reason, it is also possible to use this term in a pejorative sense, based on the supposed idea that an amateur has less preparation than a professional.

As a third meaning, the dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy tells us that someone who develops an activity sporadically or gets involved in it superficially can also be called a dilettante: “I don’t want more suggestions from dilettantes, I need to have real experts in my work team”, “I congratulate you, for a dilettante what you have done is not so bad”, “I am not interested in debating, the deputy is a dilettante man who gives his opinion without knowing too much”.

In the examples presented in the previous paragraph, the negative connotation that the term can carry can be seen very clearly.dilettante when used to emphasize the hierarchical difference that exists between a person who is interested in a field of knowledge and one who has undergone a traditional professional training, which usually includes a series of tertiary or university studies and the relevant achievement of a recognized degree officially by the authorities of the country.

One of the most appropriate tips to fully understand the meaning of a word, as well as all the nuances that we can represent through its use, is to look for its synonyms. In the particular case of dilettante, we find the terms connoisseur, amateur, admirer, lover, amateur, and enthusiast.

Given these synonyms, none of which seem to have a negative connotation, it is difficult to understand that in so many situations Spanish speakers use the word dilettante to criticize someone with contempt, simply because they have not chosen a traditional path in their approach to a certain discipline. Not many professionals talk about their work with enthusiasm or admiration, let alone claim to love it.

“Diletante”, finally, is the title of an Argentine film directed and written by Kris Niklison. It is a documentary released in 2010 and dedicated to the figure of Bela Jordán, Niklison ‘s mother.