Definition of foolscap
1 : a cap or hood usually with bells worn by jesters
2 : a conical cap for slow or lazy students
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!
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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
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