When you first start something, you are a novice. You probably are not familiar with the rules and regulations of what you are doing, so you are prone to making mistakes. You also will not know some of the basic tricks that will help you succeed at something, even if they seem obvious to the people who have been doing them for a long time. In fact, it will probably take you quite a bit of time to get to the point where you are comfortable in that position.
You will not become the person who knows what to do for a while, but when you do, that is when you know that you are no longer a novice.
A novice is someone who is new to something. They have very little experience, and therefore are not a good source of information about that thing. The subject that they are learning could be something as difficult as rocket science, something as fun as various video games, or something as simple as how the subway system works in a new city. As long as you are new to learning how it works, you are a novice.
One thing to note is that novice is a very common term used in the video game community. Especially when you are playing games with other people you do not know online, you will be called a novice if you are not at the same playing level as the other players. This will be true whether or not you are actually new to that game.
You could be someone who has played League of Legends for the past year, but you are not yet familiar with some of the intricacies of the game that someone who has been playing for the past five years would know. If you played a game with people with five years of experience, they would be happy to call you a novice, even though this is not exactly a good descriptor of you.
In this case, novice is a relative term – not an absolute one. If, on the other hand, you come to a job just two weeks before someone else, you would be a novice to more experienced people but would not be one to that new employee. This just depends on perception and comparisons to each other.
In some more casual contexts, novice can be an adjective that refers to something that is not done well, or is low level. If someone agrees that you do not do as good as job as they expected, they can call your work “that of a novice” even if you have worked on that thing for years. As long as the work looks like it is low-quality, others can and will call it novice work.
- If you are a novice at a popular role playing game, you need to find other novices to play with. Otherwise, the other experienced players will essentially eat you alive.
- I do not understand why Linda’s work looks like that of a novice; she has been preparing these types of reports for the company for years!
Taylor: Hey Sam! Have you heard of the game Dungeons and Dragons?
Sam: Yes, I have! I have actually tried to play it a couple times, but I could never really figure out how it works.
Taylor: So you are a novice, right?
Sam: I guess I am! What about it?
Taylor: Nothing specific, I was just wondering because I have recently started playing the game too. I wanted to look for other beginners so that we could form a novice league to practice until we got better.
Sam: Wow, that sounds like a really great idea, since most players shun novice players like they are avoiding the plague.
Taylor: Great! I’m glad you are interested. I will let you know when I have it set up!
Other words you can create
Novice is both a noun and an adjective, but there is no verb form of the word.
A novitiate is a period of time when clergy members are being trained. Men and women who want to dedicate their lives to religion must go through a period of training, and that is known as the novitiate.
- A key part of the novitiate is drilling in the purpose of living a life dedicated to serving religion, and making sure that people who are there really want to be there.
- Once the novitiate “graduates” from their training period, they have much more freedom to dictate their own schedule and pick the topics that they want to specialize in.
Someone who is an absolute novice at something is an absolute beginner. They have had no training at all before this time, so they are likely to have very poor technique and very few skills related to what they are doing.
- Victoria has been playing soccer for four years but she honestly still plays like an absolute novice; it is really a weird thing to watch!
- It takes a lot of time and resources to train an absolute novice, so companies are usually only willing to take them on if they are unpaid interns or if they really provide great value to the company in other ways.
A complete novice is just another way to say that someone is a complete beginner. They have absolutely no experience and perform poorly on tasks because of it.
- No gamer wants to play games with a complete novice because it simply is not fun.
- Gregory started the year as a complete novice in real estate investing, but by the end of the year he was finding amazing deals of houses that he could turn into huge profits!
Many times, novices are children because they typically do not have much experience in anything. If you meet someone young who is just starting out at something, they are a young novice. Even though someone who is freshly graduated from college is still considered young in many cases, they would be too old to be a young novice. This term refers exclusively to children.
- Tiger Woods started playing golf as a young novice and became the greatest golfer in the history of the sport.
- One of the most rewarding things as a teacher is to see a toddler grow up from being a young novice in an important skill like reading to being a member of society writing their own full length novels!
A novice user of something is someone who has just started using something or is still learning how it works. This is an especially common phrase that is used to describe someone who uses a technological product, such as a phone app or some computer software.
- Amy went from a novice user of the language learning app to an expert in just a couple weeks, and her French skills improved drastically.
- When Tammy worked for a customer service hotline for the photo editing app, she could not believe how many questions there were from novice users who did not understand how to do basic functions. She recommended that they make a tutorial, and she got a raise and a promotion!
Novice teacher, player, tour guide, etc.
Someone who is just starting out at their new job can be a novice teacher or a novice tour guide. However, this usually implies means that they make mistakes and have little knowledge. You can be brand new at a job without being a novice.
- He acts like a real novice teacher as he is constantly late and almost never prepared for class.
- Having the novice tour guide at the university really ruined the experience for me even though I was really considering this school as a possibility for my graduate studies.
Related phrasal verbs
To be a novice at something means that you are just beginning at it.
- Jane is a novice at many instruments, but if you ever hear her play the cello I guarantee you will have to stop and listen because she plays it so beautifully.
- I know that people assume I am a novice at this game because I am a young, attractive woman, but I can kick the butts of any guy who plays.
To be novice in something is the same thing as being novice at it. It means you are just a beginner. There is no difference between the two verb prepositions.
- I never expected James to be a novice in Spanish because he spent several months in South America, but it turned out that he was in Brazil where they speak Portuguese, not Spanish.
- After just a couple days, you can tell which new employees will remain novices in the work and which ones will apply themselves and really make progress quickly.
Synonyms for Novice (other ways to say novice)
A beginner is someone who is just starting out.
- Everybody who learns a new skill starts out as a beginner.
- I know it seems a little embarrassing to go to the beginner ski class if you are an adult that has never skied before, but I can guarantee you that it is much less embarrassing there than to keep falling on your face if you try to ski without lessons.
A trainee is someone who is being trained for something. They are always paired with a trainer who helps them learn what they need to in order to make fast progress.
- I split the trainees at this gym with the other personal trainer, so you have a 50/50 chance to get paired with me if you come to this gym.
- The line between trainee and trainer is very thin because as soon as you learn a little as a trainee, you can turn around at be the trainer, teaching it to other people.
A newcomer is someone who is new to something. This can have a negative meaning, especially if it refers to someone in a management position. In this case, the newcomer is typically someone who tries to come in and change things, regardless of how the people who have been there for a long time feel about the changes.
- I can’t believe all the newcomers from straight out of college here and then think that they understand better than us veterans how to run the company.
- Albert’s work is noteworthy not only because he combines knowledge from the fields of both psychology and law, but also because he is a newcomer to the American justice system.
A rookie is someone, usually a sports figure, army member, or law enforcement officer, who is in their first year of work. This is a term used mainly in fields that have strong comradery, where rookies are treated with suspicion until they can prove they belong in the team.
- He was jealous because the rookie goalie on the soccer team was paid twice his salary, even though he had played for the team for 5 years.
- The rookie cop was assigned to all the worst cases at the precinct because he had not yet earned the respect of his coworkers.
An initiate is someone who has been newly admitted to an organization. This is typically used for organizations that have an elaborate ceremony for its new members. It is also used for organizations that are very exclusive or secretive, such as religious cults. However, it does not have a bad denotation.
Initiate is also a verb meaning to start something, or to bring new people into an organization.
- There were five initiates lined up outside the door waiting to be let into the initiation ceremony,
- It was a real struggle to recruit new people interested in the organization this year, so there were far fewer initiates than expected.
Someone who is a tenderfoot is new to a tough situation. They may come into something like a coal mine or an oil rig. At the beginning, they are very unaware of how difficult it will be to work in those conditions. While they are still at that stage, they are a tenderfoot. This comes from the fact that in the olden times, before people started wearing shoes, people who did not know how to navigate tough situations would have tender feet because they were not exposed to harsh conditions. The sensitive feet they have would be a sign they were new.
- How long do you think the new tenderfoot will last before he gets angry and wants to quit?
- The veterans of any group understand the difficulties of the situation, so they often make fun of the tenderfeet who are blissfully unaware.
A neophyte is a person who has just started something. It can be used in a religious context to mean a new religious convert, but does not always mean a new member of a religion or a priest. It can mean a newcomer to anything.
- The new group was created specifically for neophytes so that they would have a support group as they learned how to adjust to the environment.
- Todd is practically a neophyte at video editing, but for some reason his videos just look amazing and polished in a way his peers’ videos don’t.
A fledgling is someone or something who is clearly still trying to get an understanding of a situation. They have not been able to “root” themselves somewhere yet – meaning that they are still figuring out how things work. They are new and therefore do not have the experience of established people and systems, and have many questions that have yet to be answered. This is one of the only words that can be used to describe a system or something other than a person. It can also be used as a noun or an adjective.
- After a war, the fledgling new government system is most vulnerable to attack.
- The fledgling population of rebels were more of a threat to themselves than to others because of how disorganized they were.