noun fools·cap \ˈfülz-ˌkap\
variants: or less commonly

fool's cap

Definition of foolscap

  1. 1 :  a cap or hood usually with bells worn by jesters

  2. 2 :  a conical cap for slow or lazy students

  3. 3 usually foolscap [from the watermark of a foolscap formerly applied to such paper] :  a size of paper formerly standard in Great Britain; broadly :  a piece of writing paper

foolscap was our Word of the Day on 08/08/2014. Hear the podcast!

Did You Know?

These days, we are most likely to encounter foolscap as a reference to a sheet of paper or, more specifically, to a sheet of paper that is similar in size to a sheet of legal paper. In the mid-1600s, when the use of foolscap was first attested to in English, we would have encountered it as a reference to an actual fool's cap-the cap, often with bells on, worn as part of a jester's motley. How did we get from this colorful cap to a sheet of paper? The connection is attributable to the former use of a watermark depicting a fool's cap that was used on long sheets of writing or printing paper. There are various explanations for the introduction of this watermark-including the claim that a 1648 British parliamentary group substituted it for the royal arms during exceptionally turbulent times-but such explanations remain unsupported by historical facts.


First Known Use of foolscap


Learn More about foolscap

Seen and Heard

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


to criticize severely

Get Word of the Day daily email!