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

Keep scrolling for more

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
See More
Recent Examples on the Web At first glance, Big Snow appears to be a head-slapping, refrigerated folly. Karen Heller, Anchorage Daily News, "The future of American skiing may be inside a New Jersey mall," 8 Jan. 2020 Appropriately enough, Sunday’s opponent can offer a reminder of the folly of small sample sizes. Jonas Shaffer,, "The weird stat that defines the Ravens’ up-and-down season," 1 Oct. 2019 And like all workplace novels, The Factory points out the folly of how so many of us spend our days. Rumaan Alam, The New Republic, "The Factory Is a Chilling Account of the Contemporary Workplace," 2 Dec. 2019 Director Arthur Penn spoke of the film’s incongruous tone as a commentary on the folly of the Vietnam War. Adam Bernstein, Washington Post, "Michael J. Pollard, scene-stealing actor in ‘Bonnie and Clyde,’ dies at 80," 22 Nov. 2019 The point is that the sacrifices families made to shoulder their debt burden brought home the folly of forcing families to impoverish themselves to attain higher education. Michael Hiltzik,, "Eliminating student debt would be a terrific economic stimulus program," 24 June 2019 Rottenberg approaches these topics with a certain playfulness, twisting the familiar to emphasize the folly of modern life.... Thomas Gebremedhin, WSJ, "Inside Video Artist Mika Rottenberg’s New Show," 24 May 2019 Roy High, Grand Junction The wisdom or folly of impeaching Donald Trump The Senate is gearing up to try the President Donald Trump impeachment case. Dp Opinion, The Denver Post, "Letters: UN climate talks disappoint, but don’t give up; Pollution and air quality are a top priority; The wisdom or folly of impeaching Donald Trump (12/22/19)," 23 Dec. 2019 In the end, Güero — half-labrador, half-boxer, full-bodied goof — would pay for that folly. Elaine Ayala,, "Bidding adieu to a faithful, four-legged companion," 10 Sep. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about folly

Time Traveler for folly

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for folly

Last Updated

21 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Folly.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Feb. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for folly


How to pronounce folly (audio)

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.

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on folly

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for folly

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with 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).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

More Confusing Words—Quiz

  • cats on impossible timber
  • The magician ______ moved the selected card to the top of the deck.
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!