tom·​fool·​ery | \ ˌtäm-ˈfül-rē How to pronounce tomfoolery (audio) , -ˈfü-lə- \

Definition of tomfoolery

: playful or foolish behavior

Did you know?

In the Middle Ages, Thome Fole was a name assigned to those perceived to be of little intelligence. This eventually evolved into the spelling tomfool, which, when capitalized, also referred to a professional clown or a buffoon in a play or pageant. The name Tom seems to have been chosen for its common-man quality, much like Joe Blow for an ordinary person or Johnny Reb for a soldier in the Confederate army, but tomfoolery need not apply strictly to actions by men. In Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables (1908), for example, Marilla Cuthbert complains of Anne: "She's gadding off somewhere with Diana, writing stories or practicing dialogues or some such tomfoolery, and never thinking once about the time or her duties."

Examples of tomfoolery in a Sentence

There was a lot of tomfoolery going on behind the scenes. the open bar may have had something to do with the tomfoolery at the wedding reception
Recent Examples on the Web That goes back to one of his first attempts at infield tomfoolery during the 100th Kentucky Derby. Maggie Menderski, The Courier-Journal, 27 Apr. 2022 For this year's April Fools' tomfoolery, personal care is again a top target. Mike Snider, USA TODAY, 1 Apr. 2022 McConnell won't allow such tomfoolery in the Senate, and respectable, establishment Republicans and Trump skeptics like Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) will almost certainly turn up their noses at most of these stunts. Grayson Quay, The Week, 30 Jan. 2022 Teams like the Packers shouldn't resort to such tomfoolery. Rob Reischel, Forbes, 24 Oct. 2021 America, this is a level of pure tomfoolery, ludicrousness, and downright stupidity ne’er witnessed on this television program. Ali Barthwell, Vulture, 8 Sep. 2021 Anyway, back to tomfoolery: Barely seconds pass post-elimination before the Australian and New Zealand queens get in another tiff. Shaad D'souza, Vulture, 5 June 2021 The Twitch channel is called Stopsigncam and encompasses the exact type of nonsense and tomfoolery that can quickly attract millions of viewers. Yoni Heisler, BGR, 9 Apr. 2021 Max's memories of my dad as a fun grandpa who frequently engaged in tomfoolery are not off the mark. Good Housekeeping, 22 Mar. 2021 See More

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

First Known Use of tomfoolery

1812, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for tomfoolery

tomfool entry 1 + -ery, after foolery

Learn More About tomfoolery

Time Traveler for tomfoolery

Time Traveler

The first known use of tomfoolery was in 1812

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast About tomfoolery

Dictionary Entries Near tomfoolery




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for tomfoolery

Last Updated

2 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Tomfoolery.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 May. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for tomfoolery


tom·​fool·​ery | \ ˌtäm-ˈfül-rē How to pronounce tomfoolery (audio) , -ˈfü-lə- \

Kids Definition of tomfoolery

: playful or foolish behavior


Test Your Vocabulary

Name That Color

  • a light greenish blue color
  • Name that color:
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!