fol·ly | \ˈfä-lē \
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 castle-like tower, which had a nuclear bunker next to it during the Cold War, was built in 1798 as a folly project for the wife of an earl who wanted to know if a beacon light lit at the tower could be seen from her home 22 miles away. New York Times, "36 Hours in the Cotswolds," 17 May 2018 His withdrawal from the Pacific trade deal was strategic folly if his main priority is changing China’s behavior. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Disruption Isn’t Enough," 10 June 2018 But such a hubristic folly, with its global ramifications, offers an endless well of possibilities. Demetrios Matheou, The Hollywood Reporter, "'The Lehman Trilogy': Theater Review," 13 July 2018 Trading either would likely hurt the team for the rest of 2018, but standing pat because of the recent surge would seem like folly. John Fay,, "Reds beat blog: Would the Reds trade a closer (Iglesias) and/or an All-Star (Gennett)? They did both in one trade in 1998," 10 July 2018 Tyrants’ claims to power get progressively more grandiose, their fantasies more delusional, their follies more transparent, as their self-confidence expands. Andrew Sullivan, Daily Intelligencer, "Did Trump Just Help Stop Brexit?," 13 July 2018 Bluntness is underrated as a diplomatic tool, and Berlin deserves its Trumpian embarrassment over its pipeline follies. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Trump and the Russia Pipeline," 11 July 2018 One of the greatest ironies in this still-nascent era of self-driving cars is that humans are the backup safety drivers for these autonomous systems, while the systems themselves are supposed to replace human drivers and all our follies. Lauren Goode, WIRED, "Human, Take the Wheel," 25 May 2018 By the time the central puzzle is solved and order restored, Kleist’s heroine and his readers have learned something about forgiveness and the folly of seeing our morally flawed fellow humans as either angels or devils. Francine Prose, WSJ, "Five Best: Francine Prose on Family Troubles," 12 July 2018

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

3 Oct 2018

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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 \
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

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


evasion of direct action or statement

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