fat·​u·​ous ˈfa-chü-əs How to pronounce fatuous (audio)
: complacently or inanely foolish : silly
a fatuous remark
a fatuous socialite with a near-pathological love of parties and shoppingJanet Maslin
fatuously adverb
fatuousness noun

Did you know?

"I am two fools, I know, / For loving, and for saying so / In whining Poetry," wrote John Donne, simultaneously confessing to both infatuation and fatuousness. As any love-struck fool can attest, infatuation can make buffoons of the best of us, and so it is reasonable that the words fatuous and infatuation share the same Latin root, fatuus, meaning "foolish." Both terms have been part of English since the 17th century, though infatuation followed the earlier verb infatuate, a fatuus descendant that once meant "to make foolish" but that now usually means "to inspire with a foolish love or admiration."

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What is the origin of infatuated?

When we speak of someone being infatuated it very often is in relationship to that person having seemingly taken leave of his or her senses, especially in a romantic context (“he was so infatuated that he could not remember what day of the week it was”). This is fitting, as the word shares an origin with the word fatuous, which means complacently or inanely foolish. Both words come from the Latin fatuus (“foolish”), although fatuous is not often used in the romantic contexts in which we find infatuate. When used with a preposition infatuated is typically followed by with.

Choose the Right Synonym for fatuous

simple, foolish, silly, fatuous, asinine mean actually or apparently deficient in intelligence.

simple implies a degree of intelligence inadequate to cope with anything complex or involving mental effort.

considered people simple who had trouble with computers

foolish implies the character of being or seeming unable to use judgment, discretion, or good sense.

foolish stunts

silly suggests failure to act as a rational being especially by ridiculous behavior.

the silly antics of revelers

fatuous implies foolishness, inanity, and disregard of reality.

fatuous conspiracy theories

asinine suggests utter and contemptible failure to use normal rationality or perception.

an asinine plot

Examples of fatuous in a Sentence

the fatuous questions that the audience members asked after the lecture suggested to the oceanographer that they had understood little ignoring the avalanche warnings, the fatuous skiers continued on their way down the trail
Recent Examples on the Web These included objections from many in the business community and conservative politicians pursuing their fatuous campaigns against ESG policies — environmental, social and governance — of corporations and investment firms. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 8 Mar. 2024 Not buying that fatuous distinction, Muriel, whom Molaskey handily makes the most complex character among a crowd of cartoons, offers a rebuttal in what may be the only ode to fact-checking ever written. Jesse Green, New York Times, 6 Feb. 2024 Many of these relationships are botched along the way, usually by new, fatuous directors. Brian T. Allen, National Review, 1 Feb. 2024 Reynolds’ defense of her action was particularly fatuous. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 2 Jan. 2024 And now, past his era of youthful discontent, Scorsese parrots political dissent in Killers, yet his personal, imaginative investment is as fatuous as Barbie. Armond White, National Review, 8 Nov. 2023 That’s a self-portrait that has long been fatuous in the extreme. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 3 Nov. 2023 Even more fatuous was President Barack Obama’s 2009 Nobel Peace Prize merely for not being President George W. Bush. Shawn Clark, WSJ, 29 Oct. 2023 Killers of the Flower Moon is another instance of fatuous white guilt — a companion piece to the treacheries and condemnations of Spielberg’s West Side Story. Armond White, National Review, 20 Oct. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'fatuous.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Latin fatuus foolish

First Known Use

1633, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of fatuous was in 1633


Dictionary Entries Near fatuous

Cite this Entry

“Fatuous.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fatuous. Accessed 12 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


fat·​u·​ous ˈfach-(ə-)wəs How to pronounce fatuous (audio)
fatuously adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on fatuous

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