foolscap

noun
fools·​cap | \ ˈfülz-ˌkap How to pronounce foolscap (audio) \
variants: or less commonly fool's cap

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

Illustration of foolscap

Illustration of foolscap

foolscap 1

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 early 17th century, 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.

Examples of foolscap in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Think of Dickens and piles of foolscap and quill pens and Bob Cratchit. John Kass, chicagotribune.com, 4 July 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'foolscap.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of foolscap

1577, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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The first known use of foolscap was in 1577

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Cite this Entry

“Foolscap.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/foolscap. Accessed 18 May. 2022.

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