fol·​ly | \ ˈfä-lē How to pronounce folly (audio) \
plural follies

Definition of folly

1 : lack of good sense or normal prudence and foresight his folly in thinking he could not be caught
2a : criminally or tragically foolish actions or conduct
b obsolete : evil, wickedness especially : lewd behavior
3 : a foolish act or idea The prank was a youthful folly.
4 : an excessively costly or unprofitable undertaking Paying so much for that land was folly, since it was all rocks and scrub trees.
5 : an often extravagant picturesque building erected to suit a fanciful taste

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Examples of folly in a Sentence

the folly of driving fast on steep, winding roads his folly in thinking that he would not be noticed The folly of such an action should be apparent to everyone. the follies of the modern world the famous Ziegfeld Follies of the 1920s
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Recent Examples on the Web

Still others in the camp of nationalist reaction have taken to insisting the earth’s wrath is God’s punishment instead of humanity’s folly. Emily Atkin, The New Republic, "The Blood-Dimmed Tide," 16 Sep. 2019 Vast Canfranc Estación, all 241 metres of it, is a folly in the middle of nowhere, marooned about 100km east of Pamplona. Edward Carr, 1843, "We apologise for the decay," 29 Aug. 2019 But in Rushdie’s hands all borders are indeed porous: between author and subject, reality and magic, hope and folly. Nicholas Mancusi, Time, "Salman Rushdie’s Quichotte Is a Fantastical Dream Within a Dream," 22 Aug. 2019 Remain focused on achieving your career goals even if this entails certain sacrifices. IF AUGUST 22 IS YOUR BIRTHDAY: You may be protected from some folly as the next two to three weeks pass by. Tribune Content Agency,, "Horoscope for Aug. 22, 2019: Happy birthday Kristen Wiig; Leo, whip up something exciting," 22 Aug. 2019 The consortium prevailed even as New York became Exhibit A for the nation’s testing follies. Andrea Gabor, The Denver Post, "Guest Commentary: Testing craze is fading in U.S. schools. Good. Here’s What’s Next.," 16 Aug. 2019 But the play will live on as the partly embarrassing, partly comical and partly understanding folly of the season. Anthony Fenech, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Tigers explain blooper-reel home run: 'We didn't communicate well'," 14 Aug. 2019 This is just one hypothetical illustration of the folly of rescinding that law., "Costa Mesa City Council showed courage in its defense of federal law," 4 May 2018 All the right components are there: human folly, hubris, typecasting, flames. Carina Chocano, New York Times, "When Gender Reveal Videos Go Spectacularly, Cathartically Wrong," 1 Aug. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'folly.' 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 folly

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for folly

Middle English folie, from Anglo-French, from fol fool

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Statistics for folly

Last Updated

19 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for folly

The first known use of folly was in the 13th century

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More Definitions for folly



English Language Learners Definition of folly

: the lack of good sense or judgment
: a foolish act or idea : foolish behavior
: a very unusual or fancy building that was built in a garden for decoration or amusement in the past


fol·​ly | \ ˈfä-lē How to pronounce folly (audio) \
plural follies

Kids Definition of folly

1 : lack of good sense His own folly caused his trouble.
2 : a foolish act or idea That plan was sheer folly.

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More from Merriam-Webster on folly

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with folly

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for folly

Spanish Central: Translation of folly

Nglish: Translation of folly for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of folly for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about folly

Comments on folly

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


concealment of treason or felony

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