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 Marketing gimmick, internet-era tomfoolery, or a sign of the times? Chris Roberts, Forbes, "Would You Buy “Digital Marijuana”? Blockchain-Based “NFTs” Arrive In Cannabis.," 1 Mar. 2021 Rutgers started turning trick-play tomfoolery into touchdowns. Nathan Baird, cleveland, "Ohio State football ‘chasing perfection’ under imperfect circumstances with surprising Maryland up next," 10 Nov. 2020 There’s a spectacle to everything involved, whether the tempestuous nature of the athletes themselves or the tomfoolery involved in their contract negotiations. Sonia Rao, Washington Post, "16 sports dramas to stream if your interests lean more drama than sports," 12 Aug. 2020 Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sat through 11 hours of Republican tomfoolery during a 2015 hearing that was transparently intended to damage her presidential campaign. Stephen Collinson, CNN, "The curse of the vice presidency and legendary congressional hearing stunts," 31 July 2020 But all that tomfoolery and all those madcap hijinks often obscure the fact that Tony is actually a super smart player. Dalton Ross,, "Survivor: Winners at War recap: Family invasion edition!," 16 Apr. 2020 In 2011, the Panthers brought pee-wee football inspired tomfoolery to the NFL. Jim Reineking, USA TODAY, "Greatest trick plays in NFL history, from Philly Special to Dan Marino's fake spike," 1 Apr. 2020 Even Google, which traditionally shares April Fools' Day pranks and jokes across its platforms, is abstaining from such tomfoolery this year, according to a Business Insider report. Aj Willingham, CNN, "April Fools' Day? Please, let's not this year," 1 Apr. 2020 The tomfoolery didn't stop there, but fortunately, two-thirds of Group A's performances were no joke. Rachel Yang,, "Masked Singer recap: White Tiger finally gets eliminated, revealed to be Super Bowl champ," 2 Apr. 2020

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

3 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Tomfoolery.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for tomfoolery



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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