Discussion in 'English Only' started by Etcetera, Aug 14, 2007.
What is the difference between 'expert' and 'specialist'?
Thanks in advance!
You could be an expert chef who specializes in French cuisine, or and expert linguist who specializes in ancient languages. Does that help?
In many cases they are interchangeable, compare the definitions from the OED:
a person who is highly skilled or knowledgeable in a particular field
a person who is very knowledgeable about or skilful in a particular area.
Which is which?
However, for example, (in BE usage) "a specialist" is a doctor who specializes in a particular branch, and we would not call him or her "an expert" even though of course, he or she is. "I am going to see the heart expert today", "I am going to see the heart specialist today".
Apart from certain conventions, I guess we would use "specialist" when we want to emphasize the specialized area in which the person is an expert.
I think I do understand the thing now.
Some one could be a specialist and not be particularly good at his area of specialty. In which case he could be an "inexpert specialist".
"He was a cardiovascular specialist; unfortunately all his patients die."
A "Specialist" is someone who has narrowed down his field of work or study. You may not infer that a specialist is an expert. That you will have to get from the context.
An "expert" is someone who excels in some field of work or study (or sport). An expert could be a specialist:
"He was an expert marksman." (expert, specialist)
"He excelled in almost every sport--football, basketball, fencing, wrestling and track and field." (expert, generalist).
The discussion improves the clarity on the topic. The problem is does the general society understand the difference to appreciate the difference/similarity.
I'm a skeptic; I have no problem making that distinction.
I am reminded of the comedian who said, "I'm a specialist in marital relations; I've been married six times!"
A specialist, yes; an expert? No.
Except that the joke is in the fact that the teller says or implies that he is a formal specialist by training (therefore an expert), but the dénouement is that his qualification is merely his experience as someone who is more likely to be a client of the specialist he is claiming to be. It would still work with "expert" (although not as well, as "specialist" sounds more clinical), so I would not say that this example brings any evidence of a distinction.
I suppose you could say he was an expert at marriage failure. (He excells at that.)
To be a specialist in marriage failure he would have to enter the relationship with the intent of failing.
But I am thinking that the joke is not furthering ones understanding on this issue.
Separate names with a comma.