Definition of dunce
: a slow-witted or stupid person
Examples of dunce in a Sentence
people with the learning disability dyslexia were once simply dismissed as dunces
Recent Examples of dunce from the Web
But step into their britches; to be smartphone-era dunces careening into the singularity must be excruciating.
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.
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.”
Origin and Etymology of dunce
John Duns Scotus, whose once accepted writings were ridiculed in the 16th century
First Known Use: 1570See Words from the same year
DUNCE Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of dunce for English Language Learners
: someone who is stupid or slow at learning things
DUNCE Defined for Kids
Definition of dunce for Students
: a stupid person
Seen and Heard
What made you want to look up dunce? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).