Definition of dilettante in US English:



  • 1A person who cultivates an area of interest, such as the arts, without real commitment or knowledge.

    ‘a wealthy literary dilettante’
    • ‘A gentle aesthete and a shambolic dilettante, he was extraordinarily widely read, but shrewd and critical as well as omnivorous.’
    • ‘You are a highly seasoned professional committed to the cause while they are half-hearted dilettantes who are very likely to crack under pressure.’
    • ‘The reality is that many of our youth have gone beyond that grammar school education so suited to the dilettantes of long-time European metropolitan salons.’
    • ‘This all-too-short book is for anyone interested in opera, from the dilettante to the fanatic.’
    • ‘The question that we should all be asking ourselves is: who are the real dilettantes?’
    • ‘Journalism depends on uncredentialed losers, outsiders, dilettantes, frustrated lawyers, unabashed alcoholics - and, yes, creative psychopaths - to keep its blood red.’
    • ‘As we discussed earlier, I'm a dilettante at best when it comes to dance, so I'm just going to be open about my ignorance.’
    • ‘Though on the surface they might seem only to be dilettantes, I admired the drive within them as they met failure and would go on to spend millions once again in another attempt.’
    • ‘Far from playing the dilettante, the author shares his in-depth knowledge of the area's religion, history and politics with the reader.’
    • ‘This version of humanity doesn't mind dilettantes at all.’
    • ‘The sleuth bridges a number of formats and styles while always emphasising ingenuity, deduction and a dilettante's approach to crime-solving.’
    • ‘We are all dilettantes and pretenders by comparison.’
    • ‘Or does he impinge on our current consciousness as a dandified dilettante admired by his own period but of utter irrelevance to ours?’
    • ‘This is a woman who neglected her family, suffered the scorn of fellow journalists who considered her a glory-seeking dilettante and could be easily manipulated by those keen to point her in the wrong direction.’
    • ‘Being in advance of one's time is generally the excuse of the mediocrity, the creator of second or even third rate work, the moderately talented dilettante who has no cultivated skill with which to communicate with a contemporary world.’
    • ‘Is there really so little talent in the whole Liberal party that they gave the Communications job to a complete dilettante?’
    • ‘Media pundits can be opinionated dilettantes, but they can also possess the kind of knowledge that provides real insights into the subject under discussion.’
    • ‘Idling above the world in a fat leather seat, snacking on a pastry and talking about the mile-high club, I wonder if we are less modern philanthropists, more latter-day dilettantes?’
    • ‘Idle speculation leads me to postulate some of the following; that there might well be an established colony of such birds released from captivity by well meaning 17th century dilettantes.’
    • ‘The innocent corruption of scheming, out-of-control teens will always be more compelling than all those witty rewrites of the lives of jaded middle-aged dilettantes who really have no excuse to be so soulless.’
    dabbler, potterer, tinkerer, trifler, dallier
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1archaic A person with an amateur interest in the arts.
      • ‘The opening brings out the full array of Calgary's artists, art-watchers, debutantes, dilettantes, party kids and general public, and generates a portion of the revenue that keeps this non-profit festival operating.’
      • ‘He wanted approval for his work, for the work's sake; he wasn't an amateur or a dilettante.’


Mid 18th century: from Italian, ‘person loving the arts’, from dilettare ‘to delight’, from Latin delectare.