Origin and usage
The noun guru comes from a Hindi word meaning ‘teacher’ or ‘priest’. It has been used in English since the 17th century.
In Hinduism a guru is a religious or spiritual leader, while in Sikhism it is the title given to the religion’s first ten leaders. In common parlance, however, a guru is simply a person that other people respect as an expert in a particular field of activity and whose advice or guidance they seek. This meaning is labelled ‘mainly journalism’ and indeed it is as a kind of handy media shorthand that it is usually found. Guru can be preceded by a large number of nouns referring to a wide range of activities. The Macmillan Dictionary example highlights ‘style’ and ‘fitness’. Our corpus shows many others, including tech, self-help, beauty, yoga, diet and fashion, as well as marketing and gardening. Some of the common adjective collocates suggest a rather cynical view of gurus and their expertise: they include self-proclaimed, self-styled and self-appointed, as well as ‘motivational’.
“You truly don’t have to be a tech guru to pick out the perfect software.”
“Have you ever wondered about those self-proclaimed financial gurus that appear on cable news channels to spout their Theory of the Day?”
“The other writing you’ll encounter on this site is from Anne Moore, our resident horticulture guru.”
consultant, counsellor, guide, mentor