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 The two are shut off from the wider community by their folly. Tim Parks, The New York Review of Books, "Characters in Search of a Conflict," 23 Feb. 2021 Spock, the science officer of the Starship Enterprise, could raise one eyebrow to express his puzzlement at human folly. Daniel Glick, Scientific American, "Can the Amazon Save the Planet?," 3 Apr. 2017 But one character, by his very existence, reveals the folly of that mind-set. Abraham Riesman, Vulture, "The Story Behind Bucky’s Groundbreaking Comic-Book Reinvention As the Winter Soldier," 19 Mar. 2021 No issue demonstrates the folly of politics as performance art more starkly than the reckless call to abolish and defund the Minneapolis Police Department. Paul Ostrow, Star Tribune, "Minneapolis needs reformers, not performers," 28 Feb. 2021 But everything is changed—friends and family gone, shops replaced, streets torn up—and the idea that a savvy New Yorker is hiding somewhere inside Asher’s angry passivity proves an embarrassing folly. Vivian Gornick, The New York Review of Books, "Sex, Noir & Isolation," 9 Mar. 2021 Suddenly, the summer’s rolling blackouts appeared to be not conservation but damaging and dangerous ideological folly. Tiana Lowe, Washington Examiner, "Newsom pushes Californians to the brink," 25 Feb. 2021 Larson now sees the folly in Perry’s partisan obstinance. Gilbert Garcia, San Antonio Express-News, "Garcia: 'No-brainer' - By backing Medicaid expansion, Republican State Rep. Lyle Larson chooses common sense over partisanship," 12 Feb. 2021 Time, having become more precious and real, has exposed the folly of self-enrichment. Los Angeles Times, "Commentary: Presidential inaugurations are theater. What a difference this new cast makes," 20 Jan. 2021

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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Learn More about folly

Time Traveler for folly

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for folly

Last Updated

6 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Folly.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 Apr. 2021.

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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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Comments on folly

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