tom·​fool·​ery | \ ˌtäm-ˈfül-rē How to pronounce tomfoolery (audio) , -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 What the attendees get is an instant city, with events and plenty of counterculture tomfoolery, over nine days. Peter Fimrite,, "Burning Man organizers sue feds over fees of nearly $3 million a year," 31 Dec. 2019 Undoubtedly lubricated because of the 5:15 p.m. kickoff, several fans stormed the field after time expired, but the tomfoolery was limited. Ryan O’halloran, The Denver Post, "Week 15 NFL Picks: Bills-Steelers face-off has wild card seeding implications," 14 Dec. 2019 Big Game often comes with a little tomfoolery, Nov. 22, Sports, B4 A photo caption with the story that began on the cover misidentifed a Cal football player., "Corrections, Dec. 11," 10 Dec. 2019 Plus, pausing in the center of stairway to gesticulate wildly while wielding a selfie stick is an obvious nuisance, and New Yorkers of any borough aren’t known for their patience with such tomfoolery. Wired, "‘Joker Stairs’ and the Problem With Meme Tourism," 24 Oct. 2019 The success of these Viners’ rescue attempt had implications for the many more mid- to upper-tier Viners—many of them black—who introduced so much of America, so much of the world, to their homegrown brand of tomfoolery. Wired, "The Undeniable Blackness of Vine (RIP)," 12 Nov. 2019 Parody, satire and delicious tomfoolery, straight out of the 17th century (written by Francis Beaumont, it was first performed in 1607). Chris Kaltenbach,, "Things to do in Baltimore this week: Light City and the Baltimore Book Festival, the Westminster Catacombs, World Oddities Expo and more," 27 Oct. 2019 The song that got the loudest audience applause was a comic relief number performed by Staudenmayer’s Vlad and Countess Lily (a perfectly silly Tari Kelly), past lovers who reunite in a Paris ballroom for an inspired bit of carnal tomfoolery. Randy Mcmullen, The Mercury News, "Review: ‘Anastasia’ in SF works better as fable than as musical," 5 Sep. 2019 All this tomfoolery dents the reputation of the marathon, which is among the fastest-growing in the world. The Economist, "Why the Mexico City marathon attracts so many cheats," 22 Aug. 2019

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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The first known use of tomfoolery was in 1812

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Last Updated

10 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Tomfoolery.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for tomfoolery


How to pronounce tomfoolery (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of tomfoolery

old-fashioned : playful or silly behavior


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

Kids Definition of tomfoolery

: playful or foolish behavior

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