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

Democrats are in the minority and many are pointing to Reid’s tweet as evidence of the folly of changing the Senate rules. Mahita Gajanan, Time, "Why Republicans Are Suddenly Thanking Harry Reid for a 2013 Tweet About Filibuster Reform," 28 June 2018 From the ground up, this particular folly starts out as a rather orthodox summer house, only to grow upwards into a massive, 37 feet-high sandstone pineapple. Max Maeckler, Vogue, "You Can Rent a Pineapple Palace on the Airbnb For Historic Homes," 16 Aug. 2018 Other Broward follies include ballot misprints, posting results before polls closed and more. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "A Broward County Senate Steal?," 9 Nov. 2018 Robert Patrick was brought in as Agent Doggett, providing a skeptical folly to Scully's now-believing self. John Wenz, Popular Mechanics, "We Want You to Believe: 15 Episodes to Get Started With 'The X-Files'," 12 June 2015 The folly of counting Xavier out for those reasons should be plain. Chris Johnson,, "Villanova Shows It's Still King of the Big East—and a Legitimate National Title Threat," 11 Mar. 2018 There were plenty of things to talk about, like Zimmermann’s five scoreless innings under the weather and the bullpen bouncing back, but the conversation kept coming back to Martin’s folly in the bottom of the ninth inning. Anthony Fenech, Detroit Free Press, "Martin, Tigers get the bounces — mostly — in win over Royals," 5 May 2018 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

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

12 Dec 2018

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 \
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).


the figure or shape of a crescent moon

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