Word Wednesday

n. one who dabbles in something for personal amusement dil·et·tante [dil-i-tahnt, dil-i-tahnt, -tahn-tey, -tan-tee]  noun, plural dil·et·tantes, dil·et·tan·ti [-tahn-tee] , adjective


1. a person who takes up an art, activity, or subject merely for amusement, especially in a desultory or superficial way; dabbler.

2.  a lover of an art or science, especially of a fine art.


3.  of or pertaining to dilettantes.


1725–35;  < Italian,  noun use of present participle of dilettare  < Latin dēlectāre  to delight

Related forms

dil·et·tan·tish, dil·et·tan·te·ish, adjective

I love this fancy little word and I think I've only heard it used once in the past decade, by an artist friend of mine.  However, if someone were to call you a dilettante, today, I'm not sure if the appropriate response would be to thank them, or if you should take offense.

The original use of the word was much friendlier than its current use.  It was originally used to describe a person who dabbles in an activity (such as the arts) simply for their own personal amusement and satisfaction, or it was also used to describe a person who had a love or appreciation for the arts.

It seems the word has evolved and has taken on a negative connotation and is now used, almost as an insult, when describing one who has no real talent or ability in that which they claim to be proficient.

The original use was a lot less negative, and I think a lot more appropriate in meaning.  In its original meaning, I suppose a lot of us could consider ourselves dilettantes and that's a pretty fabulous thing!  I would encourage everyone to be dilettantish!  We should explore our creative side and do things because we want to do them, or because we love to do them!  We don't have to be a pro in every single thing we do. We should dabble, explore, create, and have fun - and we should let go of the pressure or expectation that we have to be perfect, or that we have to create something spectacular when we're just starting out.  Why not celebrate the process and not just the results?

For example, I would say that I'm a dilettante-photographer and also a dilettantish writer and blogger.  I love photography. I admire pictures of beautiful things and beautiful pictures of ordinary things. I've wanted to be a photographer for years and I've known that in order to blog, it would be absolutely necessary to grow as a photographer.  I've been reluctant to dive in because of my lack of knowledge and understanding of photography.   It is even more difficult to be a photographer in our present time because it doesn't seem enough just to capture a beautiful shot. Now, one also has to be proficient in photoshop or some other photo-editing programs. I was fearful and intimated to even snap a damn picture because I felt I wasn't skilled or educated enough to do so.

Well, guess what? I learned at The Blogcademy that the demand for "perfectionism is just a form of procrastination."  My reluctance to even try to take a picture was just a silly excuse to remain still and it was preventing me from starting, and then growing, my blog.  It is perfectly ok to be a dilettante in whatever it is that you want to do and love to do.  It is not ok to deny yourself the pleasure of creating, simply because you think that you have to be perfect from the start. It's ok...let's all dabble!

I've had a dilettantish start to blogging in that it's all been quite amateur, but at least I've started and I'm determined and motivated to improve. I'm happy to be a dilettante now, in both photography and blogging.  In the future, we'll be able to look back on this bumpy start and appreciate the growth and evolution.