Bad News for Nerds: The Term Fanboy Started with Jocks!
Having grown up with nerdy things like science fiction, comics and videogames I hate to admit it but the origins of the word “fanboy” come out of the sports world! The term fan derives from the word fanatic — and fanatic of course has the tradition meaning of “marked by excessive enthusiasm and often intense uncritical devotion” (i.e. batshit crazy). However in 19th century America the term was more loving ascribed to folks who loved baseball:
“1889, Amer.Eng., originally of baseball enthusiasts, probably a shortening of fanatic, but may be influenced by the Fancy (1807), a collective term for followers of a certain hobby or sport (especially boxing). There is an isolated use from 1682, but the modern word is likely a new formation.”
Editor’s Note: This admission in no way condones jocks, frat boys or those who would take the side of Fonzie over Richie Cunningham.
But Yes the Term Fanboy was Popularized Thanks to Comic Books Fans
The term “fanboy” as far as we know goes back to at leas the 1950s — the earliest source is the book Learning to Write by Reed Smith, Bill Paxton, William Paxton, and Basil G. Meserve:
“[the] chief co-ordinating conjunctions are sometimes called the fanboy words.” (p. 398).
However the term really picked up popularity in comic book circles in the 1980s — although it was a bit of a put down. However over time as a more geek culture has started to dominate American society (thanks in large to the internet boom on the 90s) the term has become more and more positive over time.
Below: The appearance of the character Fan Boy on the animated series Freakazoid from the 90s:
And Why Shouldn’t You Use the Sexist Term Fangirl?
For the record at Fanboy.com we like to refer to fanboys of the opposite sex as fangurls rather than fangirls. This term comes more out of punk and fanzine circles and was popularized a bit later n the 90s. It has a slight bit of a feminist buzz to it as well, which to our editorial point captures the more enlightened spirit of being a fanboy.