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Hobby: collecting seashells Seashells North Wales 1985.jpg
Hobby: collecting seashells
In Tristram Shandy, the term "hobby-horse" was used to refer to whimsical obsessions, which led to the current use of the word "hobby" George Cruikshank - Tristram Shandy, Plate V. My Uncle Toby on his Hobby-horse.jpg
In Tristram Shandy, the term "hobby-horse" was used to refer to whimsical obsessions, which led to the current use of the word "hobby"

A hobby is considered to be a regular activity that is done for enjoyment, typically during one's leisure time. Hobbies include collecting themed items and objects, engaging in creative and artistic pursuits, playing sports, or pursuing other amusements. Participation in hobbies encourages acquiring substantial skills and knowledge in that area. A list of hobbies changes with renewed interests and developing fashions, making it diverse and lengthy. Hobbies tend to follow trends in society, for example stamp collecting was popular during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as postal systems were the main means of communication, while video games are more popular nowadays following technological advances. The advancing production and technology of the nineteenth century provided workers with more leisure time to engage in hobbies. Because of this, the efforts of people investing in hobbies has increased with time.


Hobbyists may be identified under three sub-categories: casual leisure which is intrinsically rewarding, short-lived, pleasurable activity requiring little or no preparation, serious leisure which is the systematic pursuit of an amateur, hobbyist, or volunteer that is substantial, rewarding and results in a sense of accomplishment, and finally project-based leisure which is a short-term, often one-off, project that is rewarding. [1]


Writing and editing articles for Wikipedia is a hobby for some people. Wikipedian at otium.jpg
Writing and editing articles for Wikipedia is a hobby for some people.

In the 16th century, the term "hobby" had the meaning of "small horse and pony". The term "hobby horse" was documented in a 1557 payment confirmation for a "Hobbyhorse" from Reading, England. [2] The item, originally called a "Tourney Horse", was made of a wooden or basketwork frame with an artificial tail and head. It was designed for a child to mimic riding a real horse. By 1816 the derivative, "hobby", was introduced into the vocabulary of a number of English people. [3] Over the course of subsequent centuries, the term came to be associated with recreation and leisure. In the 17th century, the term was used in a pejorative sense by suggesting that a hobby was a childish pursuit, however, in the 18th century with more industrial society and more leisure time, hobbies took on greater respectability. [4] A hobby is also called a pastime, derived from the use of hobbies to pass the time. A hobby became an activity that is practiced regularly and usually with some worthwhile purpose. [5] Hobbies are usually, but not always, practiced primarily for interest and enjoyment, rather than financial reward.

A special interest is a highly focused interest that is commonly held by autistic individuals. [6] It is a form of hobby that is commonly associated with neurodivergent people. [7] [8] [9] Neurotypical people also develop special interests, in the form of hobbies. [10]


Prior to the mid-19th century, hobbies were generally considered as an obsession, childish or trivial, with negative connotations. [11] However, as early as 1676 Sir Matthew Hale, in Contemplations Moral and Divine, wrote "Almost every person hath some hobby horse or other wherein he prides himself." [12] He was acknowledging that a "hobby horse" produces a legitimate sense of pride. The cultural shift towards acceptance of hobbies was thought to begin during the mid 18th century as working people had more regular hours of work and greater leisure time, spending more time to pursue interests that brought them satisfaction. [13] However, there was concern that these working people might not use their leisure time in worthwhile pursuits. "The hope of weaning people away from bad habits by the provision of counter-attractions came to the fore in the 1830s, and has rarely waned since. Initially, the bad habits were perceived to be of a sensual and physical nature, and the counter attractions, or perhaps more accurately alternatives, deliberately cultivated rationality and the intellect." [14] The book and magazine trade of the day encouraged worthwhile hobbies and pursuits. The burgeoning manufacturing trade made materials used in hobbies cheap and was responsive to the changing interests of hobbyists.

In 1941, George Orwell identified hobbies as central to European culture at the time: "Another English characteristic which is so much a part of us that we barely notice it … is the addiction to hobbies and spare-time occupations, the prolateness of English life. We are a nation of flower-lovers, but also a nation of stamp-collectors, pigeon-fanciers, amateur carpenters, coupon-snippers, darts-players, crossword-puzzle fans. All the culture that is most truly native centers round things which even when they are communal are not official—the pub, the football match, the back garden, the fireside and the 'nice cup of tea'." [15]

Deciding what to include in a list of hobbies provokes debate because it is difficult to decide which pleasurable pass-times can also be described as hobbies. During the 20th century the term hobby suggested activities, such as stamp collecting, embroidery, knitting, painting, woodwork, and photography. Typically the description did not include activities like listening to music, watching television, or reading. These latter activities bring pleasure, but lack the sense of achievement usually associated with a hobby. They are usually not structured, organized pursuits, as most hobbies are. The pleasure of a hobby is usually associated with making something of value or achieving something of value. "Such leisure is socially valorized precisely because it produces feelings of satisfaction with something that looks very much like work but that is done of its own sake." [5] "Hobbies are a contradiction: they take work and turn it into leisure, and take leisure and turn it into work." [16] A 2018 study using survey results identified the term "hobby" to most accurately describe activities associated with making or collecting objects, especially when done alone. [11]

Cultural trends related to hobbies change with time. In the 21st century, the video game industry has been popular as a hobby involving millions of children and adults. Stamp collecting declined along with the importance of the postal system. Woodwork and knitting declined as hobbies, because manufactured goods provide cheap alternatives for handmade goods. Through the internet, an online community has become a hobby for many people; sharing advice, information and support, and in some cases, allowing a traditional hobby, such as collecting, to flourish and support trading in a new environment.[ citation needed ]


Hobbyists are a part of a wider group of people engaged in leisure pursuits where the boundaries of each group overlap to some extent. The Serious Leisure Perspective [17] groups hobbyists with amateurs and volunteers and identifies three broad groups of leisure activity with hobbies being found mainly in the Serious leisure category. Casual leisure is intrinsically rewarding, short-lived, pleasurable activity requiring little or no preparation. Serious leisure is the systematic pursuit of an amateur, hobbyist, or volunteer that is substantial, rewarding and results in a sense of accomplishment. Finally, project-based leisure is a short-term often a one-off project that is rewarding. [1]

The terms amateur and hobbyist are often used interchangeably. Stebbins [17] has a framework which distinguishes the terms in a useful categorization of leisure in which casual leisure is separated from serious Leisure. He describes serious leisure as undertaken by amateurs, hobbyists and volunteers. Amateurs engage in pursuits that have a professional counterpart, such as playing an instrument or astronomy. Hobbyists engage in five broad types of activity: collecting, making and tinkering (like embroidery and car restoration), activity participation (like fishing and singing), sports and games, and liberal-arts hobbies (like languages, cuisine, literature). Volunteers commit to organizations where they work as guides, counsellors, gardeners and so on. The separation of the amateur from the hobbyist is because the amateur has the ethos of the professional practitioner as a guide to practice. An amateur clarinetist is conscious of the role and procedures of a professional clarinetist.

A large proportion of hobbies are mainly solitary in nature. [18] However, individual pursuit of a hobby often includes club memberships, organized sharing of products and regular communication between participants. For many hobbies there is an important role in being in touch with fellow hobbyists. Some hobbies are of communal nature, like choral singing and volunteering.

People who engage in hobbies have an interest in and time to pursue them. Children have been an important group of hobbyists because they are enthusiastic for collecting, making and exploring, in addition to this they have the leisure time that allows them to pursue those hobbies. The growth in hobbies occurred during industrialization which gave workers set time for leisure. During the Depression there was an increase in the participation in hobbies because the unemployed had the time and a desire to be purposefully occupied. [19] Hobbies are often pursued with an increased interest by retired people because they have the time and seek the intellectual and physical stimulation a hobby provides.

Types of hobbies

Hobbies are a diverse set of activities and it is difficult to categorize them in a logical manner. The following categorization of hobbies was developed by Stebbins. [1]


Collecting includes seeking, locating, acquiring, organizing, cataloging, displaying and storing. [20] Collecting is appealing to many people due to their interest in a particular subject and a desire to categorize and make order out of complexity. Some collectors are generalists, accumulating items from countries of the world. Others focus on a subtopic within their area of interest, perhaps 19th century postage stamps, milk bottle labels from Sussex, or Mongolian harnesses and tack, Firearms (both modern and vintage).

A stamp album used in stamp collecting. Stamp album sleeve.jpg
A stamp album used in stamp collecting.

Collecting is an ancient hobby, with the list of coin collectors showing Caesar Augustus as one. Sometimes collectors have turned their hobby into a business, becoming commercial dealers that trade in the items being collected.

An alternative to collecting physical objects is collecting records of events of a particular kind. Examples include train spotting, bird-watching, aircraft spotting, railfans, and any other form of systematic recording a particular phenomenon. The recording form can be written, photographic, online, etc.

Making and tinkering

Making and tinkering includes working on self-motivated projects for fulfillment. These projects may be progressive, irregular tasks performed over a long period of time. [1] Making and Tinkering hobbies include higher-end projects, such as building or restoring a car or building a computer from individual parts, like CPUs and SSDs. For computer savvy do-it-yourself hobbyists, CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machining may also popular. A CNC machine can be assembled and programmed to make different parts from wood or metal.

Tinkering is 'dabbling' with the making process, often applied to the hobby of tinkering with car repairs, and various kinds of restoration: of furniture, antique cars, etc. It also applies to household tinkering: repairing a wall, laying a pathway, etc. Examples of Making and Tinkering hobbies include Scale modeling, model engineering, 3D printing, dressmaking, and cooking.

Scale modeling is making a replica of a real-life object in a smaller scale and dates back to prehistoric times with small clay "dolls" and other children's toys that have been found near known populated areas. Some of the earliest scale models of residences were found in Cucuteni–Trypillia culture in Eastern Europe. These artifacts were dated to be around 3000-6000 BC. [21] Similar models dating back to the same period were found in ancient Egypt, India, China and Mesopotamia archaeological sites. [22]

At the turn of the Industrial Age and through the 1920s, some families could afford things such as electric trains, wind-up toys (typically boats or cars) and the increasingly valuable tin toy soldiers. Scale modeling as we know it today became popular shortly after World War II. Before 1946, children as well as adults were content in carving and shaping wooden replicas from block wood kits, often depicting enemy aircraft to help with identification in case of an invasion.[ citation needed ]

With the advent of modern plastics, the amount of skill required to get the basic shape accurately shown for any given subject was lessened, making it easier for people of all ages to begin assembling replicas in varying scales. Superheroes, aero planes, boats, cars, tanks, artillery, and even figures of soldiers became quite popular subjects to build, paint and display. Although almost any subject can be found in almost any scale, there are common scales for such miniatures which remain constant today.

Model engineering refers to building functioning machinery in metal, such as internal combustion motors and live steam models or locomotives. This is a demanding hobby that requires a multitude of large and expensive tools, such as lathes and mills. This hobby originated in the United Kingdom in the late 19th century, later spreading and flourishing in the mid-20th century. Due to the expense and space required, it is becoming rare.

A coffee-table sized model railroad Z scale miniature railroad.jpg
A coffee-table sized model railroad

3D Printing is a relatively new technology and already a major hobby as the cost of printers has fallen sharply. It is a good example of how hobbyists quickly engage with new technologies, communicate with one another and become producers related to their former hobby. 3D modeling is the process of making mathematical representations of three dimensional items and is an aspect of 3D printing.

Dressmaking has been a major hobby up until the late 20th century, in order to make cheap clothes, but also as a creative design and craft challenge. It has been reduced by the low cost of manufactured clothes.

Cooking is for some people an interest, a hobby, a challenge and a source of significant satisfaction. For many other people it is a job, a chore, a duty, like cleaning. In the early 21st century the importance of cooking as a hobby was demonstrated by the high popularity of competitive television cooking programs.

Activity participation

Activity participation includes partaking in "non-competitive, rule-based pursuits." [1]

Outdoor pursuits are the group of activities which occur outdoors. These hobbies include gardening, hill walking, hiking, backpacking, cycling, canoeing, climbing, caving, fishing, hunting, target shooting (informal or formal), wildlife viewing (as birdwatching) and engaging in watersports and snowsports.

Gardening Gardening.jpg

One large subset of outdoor pursuits is gardening. Residential gardening most often takes place in or about one's own residence, in a space referred to as the garden. Although a garden typically is located on the land near a residence, it may also be located on a roof, in an atrium, on a balcony, in a windowbox, or on a patio or vivarium.

Gardening also takes place in non-residential green areas, such as parks, public or semi-public gardens (botanical gardens or zoological gardens), amusement and theme parks, along transportation corridors, and around tourist attractions and hotels. In these situations, a staff of gardeners or groundskeepers maintains the gardens.

A variety of flowers and vegetables in an indoor garden. Indoor garden.jpg
A variety of flowers and vegetables in an indoor garden.

Indoor gardening is concerned with growing houseplants within a residence or building, in a conservatory, or in a greenhouse. Indoor gardens are sometimes incorporated into air conditioning or heating systems.

Water gardening is concerned with growing plants that have adapted to pools and ponds, along with aquascaping in planted aquariums. Bog gardens are also considered a type of water garden. A simple water garden may consist solely of a tub containing the water and plants.

Container gardening is concerned with growing plants in containers that are placed above the ground.

Liberal arts pursuits

An amateur magician performing Magicianatparty.jpg
An amateur magician performing

Many hobbies involve performances by the hobbyist, such as singing, acting, juggling, magic, dancing, playing a musical instrument, martial arts, and other performing arts.

Some hobbies may result in an end product. Examples of this would be woodworking, photography, moviemaking, jewelry making, software projects such as Photoshopping and home music or video production, making bracelets, artistic projects such as drawing, painting, Cosplay (design, creation, and wearing a costume based on an already existing creative property), creating models out of card stock or paper – called papercraft. Many of these fall under the category visual arts.

Writing is often taken up as a hobby by aspiring writers and usually appears in the form of personal blog, guest posting or fan fiction (literary art resulting in creation of written content based on already existing, licensed creative property under specified terms). [23]

Reading books, ebooks, magazines, comics, or newspapers, along with browsing the internet is a common hobby, and one that can trace its origins back hundreds of years. A love of literature, later in life, may be sparked by an interest in reading children's literature as a child. Many of these fall under the category literary arts.

Sports and games

Stebbins [1] distinguishes an amateur sports person and a hobbyist by suggesting a hobbyist plays in less formal sports, or games that are rule bound and have no professional equivalent. While an amateur sports individual plays a sport with a professional equivalent, such as football or tennis. Amateur sport may range from informal play to highly competitive practice, such as deck tennis or long distance trekking.

The Department for Culture, Media, and Support in England suggests that playing sports benefits physical and mental health. A positive relationship appeared between engaging in sports and improving overall health. [24]

Psychological role

During the 20th century there was extensive research into the important role that play has in human development. While most evident in childhood, play continues throughout life for many adults in the form of games, hobbies, and sport. [25] Moreover, studies of aging and society support the value of hobbies in healthy aging. [26]

Significant achievements

There have been many instances where hobbyists and amateurs have achieved significant discoveries and developments. These are a small sample.

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Amateur</span> Person that participates in activities on a nonprofessional basis

An amateur is generally considered a person who pursues an avocation independent from their source of income. Amateurs and their pursuits are also described as popular, informal, self-taught, user-generated, DIY, and hobbyist.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gardening</span> Practice of growing and cultivating plants

Gardening is the practice of growing and cultivating plants as part of horticulture. In gardens, ornamental plants are often grown for their flowers, foliage, or overall appearance; useful plants, such as root vegetables, leaf vegetables, fruits, and herbs, are grown for consumption, for use as dyes, or for medicinal or cosmetic use.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Leisure</span> Time that is freely disposed by individuals

Leisure has often been defined as a quality of experience or as free time. Free time is time spent away from business, work, job hunting, domestic chores, and education, as well as necessary activities such as eating and sleeping. Leisure as an experience usually emphasizes dimensions of perceived freedom and choice. It is done for "its own sake", for the quality of experience and involvement. Other classic definitions include Thorstein Veblen's (1899) of "nonproductive consumption of time." Free time is not easy to define due to the multiplicity of approaches used to determine its essence. Different disciplines have definitions reflecting their common issues: for example, sociology on social forces and contexts and psychology as mental and emotional states and conditions. From a research perspective, these approaches have an advantage of being quantifiable and comparable over time and place.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Recreation</span> Activity of leisure

Recreation is an activity of leisure, leisure being discretionary time. The "need to do something for recreation" is an essential element of human biology and psychology. Recreational activities are often done for enjoyment, amusement, or pleasure and are considered to be "fun".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Collecting</span> Hobby of locating or acquiring items of interest

The hobby of collecting includes seeking, locating, acquiring, organizing, cataloging, displaying, storing, and maintaining items that are of interest to an individual collector. Collections differ in a wide variety of respects, most obviously in the nature and scope of the objects contained, but also in purpose, presentation, and so forth. The range of possible subjects for a collection is practically unlimited, and collectors have realised a vast number of these possibilities in practice, although some are much more popular than others.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Allotment (gardening)</span> Plot of land made available for individual, non-commercial gardening

An allotment, or in North America, a community garden, is a plot of land made available for individual, non-commercial gardening or growing food plants, so forming a kitchen garden away from the residence of the user. Such plots are formed by subdividing a piece of land into a few or up to several hundred parcels that are assigned to individuals or families. Such parcels are cultivated individually, contrary to other community garden types where the entire area is tended collectively by a group of people. In countries that do not use the term "allotment (garden)", a "community garden" may refer to individual small garden plots as well as to a single, large piece of land gardened collectively by a group of people. The term "victory garden" is also still sometimes used, especially when a community garden dates back to the First or Second World War.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Personal life</span> Course or state of an individuals life

Personal life is the course or state of an individual's life, especially when viewed as the sum of personal choices contributing to one's personal identity.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hobby shop</span>

A hobby shop sells recreational items for hobbyists.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Model figure</span>

A model figure is a scale model representing a human, monster or other creature. Human figures may be either a generic figure of a type, a historical personage, or a fictional character.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Model building</span>

Model building is a hobby and career that involves the creation of physical models either from kits or from materials and components acquired by the builder. The kits contain several pieces that need to be assembled in order to make a final model. Most model-building categories have a range of common scales that make them manageable for the average person both to complete and display. A model is generally considered physical representations of an object and maintains accurate relationships between all of its aspects.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Model engineering</span>

Model engineering is the pursuit of constructing proportionally-scaled miniature working representations of full-sized machines. It is a branch of metalworking with a strong emphasis on artisanry, as opposed to mass production. While now mainly a hobby, in the past it also had commercial and industrial purpose. The term 'model engineering' was in use by 1888. In the United States, the term 'home shop machinist' is often used instead, although arguably the scope of this term is broader.

DXing is the hobby of receiving and identifying distant radio or television signals, or making two-way radio contact with distant stations in amateur radio, citizens' band radio or other two-way radio communications. Many DXers also attempt to obtain written verifications of reception or contact, sometimes referred to as "QSLs" or "veries". The name of the hobby comes from DX, telegraphic shorthand for "distance" or "distant".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hobby farm</span> Farm maintained for recreational purposes

A hobby farm is a smallholding or small farm that is maintained without expectation of being a primary source of income. Some are held merely to provide recreational land for horses or other use. Others are managed as working farms for secondary income, or are even run at an ongoing loss as a lifestyle choice by people with the means to do so, functioning more like a country home than a business.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Model horse</span>

Model horses are scale replicas of real horses. They originated simultaneously – but independently – in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, followed later by Sweden (UK-influenced), Germany (US-influenced), and Australia. They encompass a wide variety of fanbase activities, from those who simply like to collect, to those who show their models at model horse shows. Unlike model cars or trains, model horse collectibles do not need to be assembled from kits, although they can be altered to the collector's liking.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gardener</span> Person who tends gardens

A gardener is someone who practices gardening, either professionally or as a hobby.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sociology of leisure</span> Study of how humans organize their free time

The sociology of leisure or leisure sociology is the study of how humans organize their free time. Leisure includes a broad array of activities, such as sport, tourism, and the playing of games. The sociology of leisure is closely tied to the sociology of work, as each explores a different side of the work-leisure relationship. More recent studies in the field move away from this relationship, however, and focus on the relation between leisure and culture.

Mass amateurization refers to the capabilities that new forms of media have given to non-professionals and the ways in which those non-professionals have applied those capabilities to solve problems that compete with the solutions offered by larger, professional institutions. Mass amateurization is most often associated with Web 2.0 technologies. These technologies include the rise of blogs and citizen journalism, photo and video-sharing services such as Flickr and YouTube, user-generated wikis like Wikipedia, and distributed accommodation services such as Airbnb. While the social web is not the only technology responsible for the rise of mass amateurization, Clay Shirky claims Web 2.0 has allowed amateurs to undertake increasingly complex tasks resulting in accomplishments that would seem daunting within the traditional institutional model.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nash's Pyramid</span> Framework for ranking leisure activities

Nash's Pyramid is a framework for ranking leisure activities, developed by Jay B. Nash. Nash was an early leader in the leisure field. His thinking was influenced by the prevalence of 'Spectatoritis' in America which he defines as, "a blanket description to cover all kinds of passive amusement".

Robert A. Stebbins is an author, researcher and an academic. He is Professor Emeritus at University of Calgary and Associate Editor for Leisure and Voluntaristics Review: Brill Research Perspectives.


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