See J. Lucas, The Modern Olympic Games (1980).
An amateur is generally considered a person attached to a particular pursuit, study, or science, without formal training or pay. Conversely, an expert is generally considered a person with extensive knowledge, ability, and/or training in a particular area of study, while a professional is someone who also makes a living from it. Translated from its French origin to the English "lover of", the term "amateur" reflects a voluntary motivation to work as a result of personal passion for a particular activity.
As with any construct, amateurism can be seen in both a negative and positive light. Since amateurs often do not have training, amateur work can sometimes be seen as sub-par. For example, amateur athletes in sports such as basketball or football are not regarded as having the same level of ability as professional athletes.
Alternatively, the lack of financial recompense can also be seen as a sign of commitment to an activity. For instance, until the 1970s most Olympic events required that the athletes be amateurs. Receiving payment to participate in an event disqualified an athlete from that event, as in the case of Jim Thorpe. In the Olympic games, this rule remains in place for boxing.
Amateurs make valuable contributions in the fields of computer programming through the open source movement. Amateur Dramatics is the performance of either plays or musical theater, often to high standards but lacking the budgets of the professional West End or Broadway performances. Astronomy and ornithology have also benefited from the activity of amateurs.
Pursuing amateur activities to the same standards as professionals is sometimes referred to as professional amateurism.