\ ˈdən(t)s How to pronounce dunce (audio) \

Definition of dunce

: a slow-witted or stupid person

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Synonyms & Antonyms for dunce



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Did You Know?

The irony of dunce lies in the fact that this synonym of dullard is derived from the name of one of the most brilliant thinkers of the Middle Ages, John Duns Scotus. So ingenious were the theological and metaphysical speculations of this thinker that he was given the name “the Subtle Doctor.” However, in the 16th century, his followers became a conservative element in English universities, and they tended to resist the new learning of humanism. As result, dunsman and the shortened form duns (later respelled as we have it today), became terms of scorn, meaning first “sophist” or “pedant” and gradually taking on the modern sense “slow-witted person.”

Examples of dunce in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web What started as casual brutality—class enemies forced to wear ridiculous dunce caps or stand in stress positions—degenerated into outright sadism. Barbara Demick, The Atlantic, "Uncovering the Cultural Revolution’s Awful Truths," 18 Dec. 2020 Despite his very real affection for his mother-in-law, Lee found his father-in-law an amiable but annoying dunce. Allen C. Guelzo, National Review, "The Mystery of Robert E. Lee," 17 Sep. 2020 For some reason, a dunce in the editing room added an explanatory whirring noise on the soundtrack. Darren Franich, EW.com, "Ratched ratchets up the crazy and goes off the deep end: Review," 14 Sep. 2020 Will our entire cadre of older faculty members morph from larger-than-life sages into teeny little pariahs wearing dunce caps? Anne Fadiman, Wired, "Screen Share: A College Teacher’s Zoom Journal," 17 June 2020 The series has a cockeyed political perspective, flooding nefarious Democratic operatives alongside its Trumpling dunce-caps. Darren Franich, EW.com, "The Good Fight season 4 is loopy, paranoid, all over the place, and gripping: Review," 9 Apr. 2020 The instant a Presidential election is over, everyone who worked on the losing campaign is recast as a dunce, and everyone on the winning side is reborn as a genius. Andrew Marantz, The New Yorker, "The Man Behind Trump’s Facebook Juggernaut," 2 Mar. 2020 The coming elite would recognize the con of mass education and spare millions the dunce hat of the community college or the online university. Thomas Meaney, Harper's magazine, "Trumpism After Trump," 20 Jan. 2020 To be sure, the Tories have had more than their fair share of Chris Grayling-style dunces and time-servers. The Economist, "Britain’s Tories are the world’s most successful party. Here’s why," 18 Dec. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'dunce.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of dunce

1567, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for dunce

John Duns Scotus, whose once accepted writings were ridiculed in the 16th century

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Statistics for dunce

Last Updated

9 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Dunce.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dunce. Accessed 2 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for dunce



English Language Learners Definition of dunce

old-fashioned : someone who is stupid or slow at learning things


\ ˈdəns How to pronounce dunce (audio) \

Kids Definition of dunce

: a stupid person

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