fol·​ly ˈfä-lē How to pronounce folly (audio)
plural follies
: lack of good sense or normal prudence and foresight
his folly in thinking he could not be caught
: criminally or tragically foolish actions or conduct
obsolete : evil, wickedness
especially : lewd behavior
: a foolish act or idea
The prank was a youthful folly.
: an excessively costly or unprofitable undertaking
Paying so much for that land was folly, since it was all rocks and scrub trees.
: an often extravagant picturesque building erected to suit a fanciful taste

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
Recent Examples on the Web Kudos to Lorraine Mirabella for her excellent coverage of Baltimore’s downtown redevelopment follies. Reader Commentary, Baltimore Sun, 18 Jan. 2024 But history shows the folly of assuming the dry times are forever. Shelby Grad, Los Angeles Times, 26 Jan. 2024 The efforts to keep Mr. Trump off the 2024 presidential ballot are a blatant attempt to subvert the will of the people and a terrible folly. WSJ, 9 Jan. 2024 American folly also animates Benjamin E. Park’s American Zion: A New History of Mormonism (Liveright, $35), which boasts infighting, outfighting, and moral certitude. Dan Piepenbring, Harper's Magazine, 14 Dec. 2023 In particular, his and Maria’s joint resolve to completely homeschool the four kids seems more like folly in the cold light of bereavement. Guy Lodge, Variety, 20 Jan. 2024 Toward the end of oral argument Tuesday morning, D.C. Circuit judge Florence Y. Pan illustrated the folly of Trump’s position. Andrew C. McCarthy, National Review, 10 Jan. 2024 For months, Republican lawmakers had fashioned Biden’s follies into a political voodoo doll in their quest to pin an impeachment inquiry onto his father, the president. Tribune News Service, Hartford Courant, 10 Jan. 2024 Youthful collegiate follies ended in his third semester when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Patrick Sauer, Smithsonian Magazine, 6 Dec. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'folly.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near folly

Cite this Entry

“Folly.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


fol·​ly ˈfäl-ē How to pronounce folly (audio)
plural follies
: lack of good sense or judgment
: foolish behavior
: a foolish act or idea

More from Merriam-Webster on folly

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