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a silly or stupid person; a person who lacks judgment or sense.
a professional jester, formerly kept by a person of royal or noble rank for amusement:
the court fool.
a person who has been tricked or deceived into appearing or acting silly or stupid:
to make a fool of someone.
an ardent enthusiast who cannot resist an opportunity to indulge an enthusiasm (usually preceded by a present participle):
He’s just a dancing fool.
a weak-minded or idiotic person.
to trick, deceive, or impose on:
They tried to fool him.
to act like a fool; joke; play.
to jest; pretend; make believe:
I was only fooling.
fool around,

to putter aimlessly; waste time:
She fooled around all through school.
to philander or flirt.
to be sexually promiscuous, especially to engage in adultery.

fool away, to spend foolishly, as time or money; squander:
to fool away the entire afternoon.
fool with, to handle or play with idly or carelessly:
to be hurt while fooling with a loaded gun; to fool with someone’s affections.
be nobody’s fool, to be wise or shrewd.
a dish made of fruit, scalded or stewed, crushed and mixed with cream or the like:
gooseberry fool.
Contemporary Examples

Like all starlets, Miley is no fool; she knows that all press is good press.
Miley Cyrus’ Age of Consent Tricia Romano June 21, 2010

We were played for a fool and as a result, let down the cause of electric vehicles.
Here’s How NOT to Review a Car Justin Green February 13, 2013

A Syrian YouTube sock puppet show reveals Assad to be the fool that he is.
Celebrate Dictator Appreciation Month David Keyes June 19, 2013

As the official points out, “He would be a fool to do anything wackily overboard.”
Secret Service Colombia Sex Scandal Deepens as Political Drama Rises Tara McKelvey April 18, 2012

I said, “Why doesn’t he want to do King Lear and I can play his fool?”
Nathan Lane’s Final Musical? Kevin Sessums April 7, 2010

Historical Examples

I told him he was a fool; but the idea was firm stuck in his head, and more I could not get out of him.
Sir Ludar Talbot Baines Reed

I’m forty-two and not so much of a fool that I ain’t a little bit of a physician.
The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson

I was not such a fool as to argue with him, so pretended his reply was a knock-out.
The Journal of a Disappointed Man Wilhelm Nero Pilate Barbellion

He had been made a fool of, and would stand that from nobody.
Viviette William J. Locke

Many a fool has believed he was a daughter’s father—and wasn’t.
Fifty Contemporary One-Act Plays Various

a person who lacks sense or judgement
a person who is made to appear ridiculous
(formerly) a professional jester living in a royal or noble household
(obsolete) an idiot or imbecile: the village fool
(Caribbean) form the fool, to play the fool or behave irritatingly
no fool, a wise or sensible person
play the fool, act the fool, to deliberately act foolishly; indulge in buffoonery
(transitive) to deceive (someone), esp in order to make him or her look ridiculous
(intransitive; foll by with, around with, or about with) (informal) to act or play (with) irresponsibly or aimlessly: to fool around with a woman
(intransitive) to speak or act in a playful, teasing, or jesting manner
(transitive) foll by away. to squander; fritter: he fooled away a fortune
(US) fool along, to move or proceed in a leisurely way
(informal) short for foolish
(mainly Brit) a dessert made from a purée of fruit with cream or custard: gooseberry fool

See court jester

late 13c., “silly or stupid person,” from Old French fol “madman, insane person; idiot; rogue; jester,” also “blacksmith’s bellows,” also an adjective meaning “mad, insane” (12c., Modern French fou), from Latin follis “bellows, leather bag” (see follicle); in Vulgar Latin used with a sense of “windbag, empty-headed person.” Cf. also Sanskrit vatula- “insane,” literally “windy, inflated with wind.”

The word has in mod.Eng. a much stronger sense than it had at an earlier period; it has now an implication of insulting contempt which does not in the same degree belong to any of its synonyms, or to the derivative foolish. [OED]

Meaning “jester, court clown” first attested late 14c., though it is not always possible to tell whether the reference is to a professional entertainer or an amusing lunatic on the payroll. As the name of a kind of custard dish, it is attested from 1590s (the food also was called trifle, which may be the source of the name).

There is no foole to the olde foole [Heywood, 1546]

Feast of Fools (early 14c.), from Medieval Latin festum stultorum) refers to the burlesque festival celebrated in some churches on New Year’s Day in medieval times. Fool’s gold “iron pyrite” is from 1829. Fool’s paradise “state of illusory happiness” is from mid-15c. Foolosopher, a most useful insult, turns up in a 1549 translation of Erasmus. Fool’s ballocks is described in OED as “an old name” for the green-winged orchid.


mid-14c., “to be foolish, act the fool,” from fool (n.). The meaning “to make a fool of” is recorded from 1590s. Also as a verb 16c.-17c. was foolify. Related: Fooled; fooling. Fool around is 1875 in the sense of “pass time idly,” 1970s in sense of “have sexual adventures.”

“foolish, silly,” considered modern U.S. colloquial, but it is attested from early 13c., from fool (n.).


An adept or enthusiast in what is indicated: Lindy was a flying fool

Related Terms


[1920s+; perhaps because the person is devoted to the extent of foolishness]

Fool’s Lisp. A small Scheme interpreter.

fool and his money are soon parted, a
fool around
fool away


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