dunce

noun
\ˈdən(t)s \

Definition of dunce 

: a slow-witted or stupid person

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms & Antonyms for dunce

Synonyms

airhead, birdbrain, blockhead, bonehead, bubblehead, chowderhead, chucklehead, clodpoll (or clodpole), clot [British], cluck, clunk, cretin, cuddy (or cuddie) [British dialect], deadhead, dim bulb [slang], dimwit, dip, dodo, dolt, donkey, doofus [slang], dope, dork [slang], dullard, dum-dum, dumbbell, dumbhead, dummkopf, dummy, dunderhead, fathead, gander, golem, goof, goon, half-wit, hammerhead, hardhead, idiot, ignoramus, imbecile, jackass, know-nothing, knucklehead, lamebrain, loggerhead [chiefly dialect], loon, lump, lunkhead, meathead, mome [archaic], moron, mug [chiefly British], mutt, natural, nimrod [slang], nincompoop, ninny, ninnyhammer, nit [chiefly British], nitwit, noddy, noodle, numskull (or numbskull), oaf, pinhead, prat [British], ratbag [chiefly Australian], saphead, schlub (also shlub) [slang], schnook [slang], simpleton, stock, stupe, stupid, thickhead, turkey, woodenhead, yahoo, yo-yo

Antonyms

brain, genius

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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

In flashbacks, William is a naive dunce and a smarmy creep. Scott Meslow, GQ, "Westworld Season 2 Episode 6 Recap: Off the Rails," 28 May 2018 And there is the comedy of dunces involving who knew what about Rob Porter, who was denied a security clearance by the FBI for reasons that probably became clear this week. Charles P. Pierce, Esquire, "Remember When Mishandling Classified Info Was the Worst Thing Possible in 2016?," 9 Feb. 2018 So, yes, let Spencer enjoy his First Amendment right to preach hate to his legion of dunces -- free and out in the open. Byron Mccauley, Cincinnati.com, "Byron McCauley: Why it's important to hear white nationalist Richard Spencer and remember the past," 17 Oct. 2017 But the game within the game also pivoted on a decision gone awry by coach Andy Reid, one that reiterates the remarkably thin and blurry line between success and defeat and perceived genius and dunce in the NFL. Vahe Gregorian, kansascity, "Why Andy Reid went for it, a key decision that backfired on the Chiefs," 15 Oct. 2017 But although the media often portrayed the Gipper as an amiable dunce, the discovery of the papers that were published in the book Reagan, In His Own Hand forced historians to revise their views of the 40th president. Charles J. Sykes, Time, "Charles J. Sykes: Where the Right Went Wrong," 5 Oct. 2017 For most of this decade, the genre’s male stars have been strutters: egocentric, bumblingly flirtatious, a little dunce-y. Jon Caramanica, New York Times, "In Country Music, Nice Guys Finish First (for Now)," 21 Sep. 2017 Liberals want the generals to leak to the press and hint that Trump is a dunce whose blunders force wise men like themselves to clean up the mess. Victor Davis Hanson, Alaska Dispatch News, "Trump and his generals," 22 June 2017 Reagan was famously called an amiable dunce, and that was unfair, but Reagan understood something [his predecessor] Carter did not. Lorraine Boissoneault, Smithsonian, "How White House Chiefs of Staff Help Govern," 9 May 2017

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.

See More

First Known Use of dunce

1570, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for dunce

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about dunce

Dictionary Entries near dunce

Duncan

Duncan Phyfe

Duncanville

dunce

dunce cap

duncery

dunch

Statistics for dunce

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for dunce

The first known use of dunce was in 1570

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for dunce

dunce

noun

English Language Learners Definition of dunce

: someone who is stupid or slow at learning things

dunce

noun
\ˈdəns \

Kids Definition of dunce

: a stupid person

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on dunce

What made you want to look up dunce? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

by force of circumstances

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Vocab Quiz

  • the-education-of-achilles-eugne-delacroix
  • Which is a synonym of discomfit?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!