tom·​fool·​ery | \ˌtäm-ˈfül-rē, -ˈfü-lə-\

Definition of tomfoolery 

: playful or foolish behavior

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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

Culiacan locals are hopeful that Maradona's off-field tomfoolery won't interfere with his ability to lead the Dorados. Carlos Rodriguez And Amy Guthrie, Fox News, "Maradona to coach soccer club in Mexico's cartel heartland," 10 Sep. 2018 There's no digital remastering, effects, edits, or other George Lucas/Ridley Scott tomfoolery. Peter Opaskar, Ars Technica, "2001 in 70mm: Pod bay doors look better than ever, still won’t open," 21 July 2018 But for all the swashbuckling, here as well Brown (assisted by fight director Brian Byrnes) digs beneath the tomfoolery, suggesting how tiring and heavy (in both senses of that word) such fighting can be. Mike Fischer, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Love and death in Spring Green: 'The Recruiting Officer,' 'Exit the King'," 3 July 2018 The tomfoolery ceased and this was his sixth inning to steady. Chandler Rome, Houston Chronicle, "Astros sweep Athletics, extend winning streak to 8," 15 June 2018 The Boot Pruitt coalition The tomfoolery of Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency’s leader, has reached a new level, somehow. Umair Irfan, Vox, "Scott Pruitt’s strategy for dealing with his scandals looks a lot like Trump’s," 8 June 2018 Starting pitcher CC Sabathia replicated the tomfoolery when Jose Altuve rifled a comebacker toward his burly midsection. Chandler Rome, Houston Chronicle, "Astros let late lead slip away in extra-inning loss to Yankees," 29 May 2018 Get your butt to Bardstown The city's annual Kentucky Bourbon Festival kicks off Sept. 11 with seven days of tours, tastings and tomfoolery. Bailey Loosemore, The Courier-Journal, "September is for Kentuckians. Here's how to celebrate National Bourbon Heritage Month," 31 Aug. 2017 To begin the tomfoolery, Alex Bregman coaxed a walk. Chandler Rome, Houston Chronicle, "Astros use late offensive push to knock off Athletics," 29 Apr. 2018

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.

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First Known Use of tomfoolery

1812, in the meaning defined above

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Last Updated

14 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for tomfoolery

The first known use of tomfoolery was in 1812

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English Language Learners Definition of tomfoolery

: playful or silly behavior


tom·​fool·​ery | \ˌtäm-ˈfül-rē, -ˈfü-lə-\

Kids Definition of tomfoolery

: playful or foolish behavior

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to clear from alleged fault or guilt

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