idiot

noun

id·​i·​ot ˈi-dē-ət How to pronounce idiot (audio)
plural idiots
1
: a foolish or stupid person
"… Idiot that I am to wear my heart on my sleeve! …"George Bernard Shaw
2
dated, now offensive; see usage paragraph below : a person affected with extreme intellectual disability
idiot adjective
Usage of Idiot

The terms idiot, imbecile, moron, and their derivatives were formerly used as technical descriptors in medical, educational, and regulatory contexts. These uses were broadly rejected by the close of the 20th century and are now considered offensive.

Did you know?

Idiot Has Greek Roots

The Greek adjective idios means “one’s own” or “private.” The derivative noun idiōtēs means “private person.” A Greek idiōtēs was a person who was not in the public eye, who held no public office. From this came the sense “common man,” and later “ignorant person”—a natural extension, for the common people of ancient Greece were not, in general, particularly learned. The English idiot originally meant “ignorant person,” but the more usual reference now is to a person who lacks basic intelligence or common sense rather than education.

Examples of idiot in a Sentence

Don't be such an idiot! only an idiot would invest in a company just because a casual acquaintance recommended it

Word History

Etymology

Middle English, from Anglo-French ydiote, from Latin idiota ignorant person, from Greek idiōtēs one in a private station, layman, ignorant person, from idios one's own, private; akin to Latin suus one's own — more at suicide

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of idiot was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near idiot

Cite this Entry

“Idiot.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/idiot. Accessed 29 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

idiot

noun
id·​i·​ot ˈid-ē-ət How to pronounce idiot (audio)
: a silly or foolish person
idiot adjective

Medical Definition

idiot

noun
id·​i·​ot ˈid-ē-ət How to pronounce idiot (audio)
dated, now offensive; see usage paragraph below
: a person affected with extreme intellectual disability

Usage of Idiot

The terms idiot, imbecile, moron, and their derivatives were formerly used as technical descriptors in medical, educational, and regulatory contexts. These uses were broady rejected by the close of the 20th century and are now considered offensive.

Legal Definition

idiot

noun
id·​i·​ot ˈi-dē-ət How to pronounce idiot (audio)
: a person with especially a profound intellectual disability

Note: While the terms idiot, imbecile, and moron survive in many state codes and statutes, they are generally no longer used in both medical and legal contexts. The modern terminology distinguishes between mild, moderate, severe, and profound levels of disability. Historically persons with intellectual disabilities have been deprived of certain rights (as in not being allowed to vote). Generally today, an adult with an intellectual disability who is his or her own guardian is not deprived of these rights.

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