tom·​fool | \ ˈtäm-ˈfül How to pronounce tomfool (audio) \

Definition of tomfool

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a great fool : blockhead



Definition of tomfool (Entry 2 of 2)

: extremely foolish, stupid, or doltish

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The word tomfoolery owes a debt to one Thome Fole, but just who that Mr. Fole was is unclear. A court jester identified as Thome Fole was employed at Durham Abbey in the 14th century, but the record is unclear about whether Thome Fole was the given name of this particular performer, or if the name was applied as a generic moniker to jesters. Regardless, Thome Fole eventually evolved into tomfool, which was in use as a noun referring to any notable fool by the early 17th century, and as an adjective describing such fools by the mid-18th century. Tomfoolery as a term for playful or foolish behavior didn’t come into use until the early 19th century, but it’s proven to be of far more use to English speakers than tomfool.

Examples of tomfool in a Sentence

Adjective what kind of tomfool idea is this?

First Known Use of tomfool


1640, in the meaning defined above


1760, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for tomfool


earlier Tom foole, from Tom, shortened form of Thomas, a proper name + foole fool entry 1

Note: The word was perhaps originally an appellation for a jester. The account rolls of Durham Abbey record disbursements made for a certain Thome Fole (also in Latin as Thomas Fatuus), presumably the name of a professional jester, for items of dress in the 1330's and for his funeral during the period 1356-57 (see Oxford English Dictionary, first edition, and Middle English Dictionary s.v. Tomme).


from attributive use of tomfool entry 1

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The first known use of tomfool was in 1640

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Tomes's fiber



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Cite this Entry

“Tomfool.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Aug. 2021.

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