im·​be·​cile | \ ˈim-bə-səl How to pronounce imbecile (audio) , -ˌsil\

Definition of imbecile

1 : fool, idiot
2 dated, now offensive : a person affected with moderate intellectual disability

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Other Words from imbecile

imbecilic \ ˌim-​bə-​ˈsi-​lik How to pronounce imbecilic (audio) \ or imbecile adjective

Synonyms & Antonyms for imbecile


airhead, birdbrain, blockhead, bonehead, bubblehead, chowderhead, chucklehead, clodpoll (or clodpole), clot [British], cluck, clunk, cretin, cuddy (or cuddie) [British dialect], deadhead, dim bulb [slang], dimwit, dip, dodo, dolt, donkey, doofus [slang], dope, dork [slang], dullard, dum-dum, dumbbell, dumbhead, dummkopf, dummy, dunce, dunderhead, fathead, gander, golem, goof, goon, half-wit, hammerhead, hardhead, idiot, ignoramus, jackass, know-nothing, knucklehead, lamebrain, loggerhead [chiefly dialect], loon, lump, lunkhead, meathead, mome [archaic], moron, mug [chiefly British], mutt, natural, nimrod [slang], nincompoop, ninny, ninnyhammer, nit [chiefly British], nitwit, noddy, noodle, numskull (or numbskull), oaf, pinhead, prat [British], ratbag [chiefly Australian], saphead, schlub (also shlub) [slang], schnook [slang], simpleton, stock, stupe, stupid, thickhead, turkey, woodenhead, yahoo, yo-yo


brain, genius

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Examples of imbecile in a Sentence

He drank too much and started acting like a complete imbecile. only an imbecile would leave their car unlocked, with the keys in the ignition, and then be surprised when the vehicle was stolen

Recent Examples on the Web

Evil is insolent and strong; beauty enchanting but rare; goodness very apt to be weak; folly very apt to be defiant; wickedness to carry the day; imbeciles to be in great places, people of sense in small, and mankind generally unhappy. Sam Sacks, WSJ, "Sam Sacks on Henry James," 18 Nov. 2016 Hard to accept that these imbeciles represent the people in our government. Kelefa Sanneh, The New Yorker, "Everyone Hates Martin Shkreli. Everyone Is Missing the Point," 5 Feb. 2016 The casual fan assumes that the average professional basketball player is an imbecile. Paul Shirley, Esquire, "A Player's Notes," 8 Feb. 2007

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

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First Known Use of imbecile

1802, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for imbecile

French imbécile, noun, from adjective, weak, weak-minded, from Latin imbecillus

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Statistics for imbecile

Last Updated

17 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for imbecile

The first known use of imbecile was in 1802

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More Definitions for imbecile



English Language Learners Definition of imbecile

: a very stupid person : an idiot or fool


im·​be·​cile | \ ˈim-bə-səl How to pronounce imbecile (audio) \

Kids Definition of imbecile

: idiot, fool


im·​be·​cile | \ ˈim-bə-səl, -ˌsil How to pronounce imbecile (audio) \

Medical Definition of imbecile

dated, now offensive
: a person affected with moderate intellectual disability

Other Words from imbecile

imbecile or imbecilic \ ˌim-​bə-​ˈsil-​ik How to pronounce imbecilic (audio) \ adjective, dated, now offensive
imbecility \ ˌim-​bə-​ˈsil-​ət-​ē \ noun, plural imbecilities dated, now offensive

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im·​be·​cile | \ ˈim-bə-sil, -ˌsīl How to pronounce imbecile (audio) \

Legal Definition of imbecile

: an intellectually disabled person especially : a person with a severe intellectual disability used formerly — see also idiot

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More from Merriam-Webster on imbecile

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for imbecile

Spanish Central: Translation of imbecile

Nglish: Translation of imbecile for Spanish Speakers

Comments on imbecile

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


readily or continually undergoing change

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