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

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 He and his East Village friends also dreamed up pieces of public tomfoolery. Joseph Berger,, "1960s prankster Paul Krassner, who named Yippies, dies at 87," 21 July 2019 He and his East Village friends also dreamed up pieces of public tomfoolery. Joseph Berger, New York Times, "Paul Krassner, Anarchist, Prankster and a Yippies Founder, Dies at 87," 21 July 2019 Steve and Dustin track down some Russian tomfoolery, with help from Robin (Maya Hawke), Steve’s co-worker and and former classmate. Darren Franich,, "The ending of Stranger Things 3 proves the limits of nostalgia: EW review, with spoilers," 4 July 2019 Expect plenty of Harry Potter tomfoolery in San Diego in two weeks when Comic-Con starts. Phillip Molnar, San Diego Union-Tribune, "San Diego home for sale includes ‘Harry Potter room’ under stairs," 3 July 2019 After a three-year reprieve, Savage returns to test myths, unfurl duct tape, and get up to the tomfoolery that made fans love the original Mythbusters so much. James Lynch, Popular Mechanics, "Adam Savage Is Back to Bust More Myths—This Time with Six Brilliant Kids," 2 Jan. 2019 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

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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Statistics for tomfoolery

Last Updated

19 Sep 2019

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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

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

More from Merriam-Webster on tomfoolery

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What made you want to look up tomfoolery? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a topic to which one constantly reverts

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