The Oxford American Dictionary defines aficionado as a devotee of a sport or pastime.  Leave it to Mr. Oxford to define a word with another word that you have to look up.

Cigar Aficionado has regularly used cigar-smok...
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Cigar Aficionado has regularly used cigar-smoking celebrities on its covers, such as this issue featuring actor William Shatner. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Oxford American Dictionary defines devotee as a zealous enthusiast or supporter.  Mr. Webster provides a more accessible definition, which defines aficionado as a person who likes, knows about, and appreciates a usually fervently pursued interest or activity.

Aficionado Origins

Originally used to describe an expert fan of bullfighting, the term is derived from the Spanish word aficionar, which is translated to mean inspires affection.

Aficionado Present Day

The word aficionado in common use today is usually in reference to a cigar aficionado.  This may relate to the popular cigar magazine Cigar Aficionado, but we’re not sure which is the chicken and which is the egg there.  The connection between cigars and the word aficionado makes sense for a few other reasons too.

There are two key things to be derived from the definition of aficionado, the affectionate person and the object of the affection.  First, let’s consider the person.  An aficionado must like the thing, be knowledgeable about it, and must display the affection and knowledge.

Aficionado Elements

If all three of these elements are not present the person is something other than an aficionado.  If the knowledge and display are present but the affection is not the person is either an opponent of the thing, or a fraud, not an aficionado.  If the affection and display and present but not the knowledge, the person is an amateur or a fan, not an aficionado.

If there is no display, the other two are called into question, because in the normal sense, we talk about what we love.  If someone claims to be a cigar aficionado but you have never seen him smoke, you have to wonder.

Cigar Aficionado

The second element is the object of the affection.  Because aficionado carries a connotation of deep connection and devotion, the object of the sentiment must be complex and enjoyable.  It is not likely you would call someone a water aficionado, because water is water.

It is too simple a thing for someone to be zealously enthusiastic about.  It is likewise counter to the definition if the object of the feelings and efforts are unpleasant.  So it would seem incongruous to call someone a sunburn aficionado.

The cigar and the cigar smoker fit the definition perfectly.  Cigar smoking is a complex hobby.  A cigar is a nuanced thing with many variations and details worthy of close attention and devotion.

Cigars are an acquired taste and it takes much experience and time to really appreciate them.  An aficionado fits in the cigar culture, because it is generally held as a loyal and long committed group who strive to give due respect to the smoke by knowing about the cigar and enjoying it to the utmost extent.

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