20 Synonyms For “Fool” That Are More Than A Fool’s Paradise

The first of April, also known as April Fools’ Day, is the time for pranksters to shine. Traditionally, the holiday is celebrated by people tricking one another and then yelling, “April fools!” The origins of the holiday are unknown, but it has been observed dating back at least to the Middle Ages, or possibly even further back, making it as old as many of the terms for fool we will be covering here.

The word fool means “a person who lacks judgment or sense,” from the Latin follis meaning “bellows” or “bag.” That’s right, a fool was the original windbag. Read on to learn about a few of the many words that describe someone who is foolish.


One of the most fun words for a “fool or simpleton” is nincompoop. The origins of this word are unknown, but it may have been invented simply because it sounds silly and ridiculous, like the person it describes. One of its earliest uses was in the play The Plain Dealer by William Wycherley (1676), where an old widow throws every insult she can think of at one of her daughter’s suitors.


The word oaf today means “a clumsy, stupid person; lout.” The origins of the word are pretty interesting. It comes from the Old English ælf, meaning “elf.” According to Medieval legend, an oaf was the child of an elf or a goblin. Specifically, an oaf was thought to be a changeling left by elves, and the term was a term used to describe a troublesome child or disavow one not living up to the parents’ expectations. (Harsh!)


We are all simpletons sometimes, or “an ignorant, foolish, or silly person.” The humble American sandpiper was also known colloquially as a simpleton. It isn’t clear what this bird did to deserve this name, but—as we will see—it is not the first bird allusion that pops up when talking about fools.


Buffoon has a variety of meanings, but it is most commonly used these days to mean “a silly or foolish person.” The word comes from the Italian buffone, which translates roughly to “one who puffs up their cheeks.” This origin makes more sense when you consider the original meaning of the word, “a person who amuses others by tricks, jokes, odd gestures and postures, etc.” Who among us hasn’t puffed up their cheeks to make a small child (or even a not-so-small adult) laugh?


The Yiddish language has many colorful terms for fools, some of which have been adopted into English. One such word is schlemiel [ shluhmeel ], which means “an awkward and unlucky person for whom things never turn out right.” The word comes from the Biblical name Shelumiel, although it is not clear exactly how he became associated with bad fortune (although the Midrash notes that his descendant Zimri caused 24,000 deaths from “plague,” so that might have something to do with it).


Another Yiddish word for a fool is schlimazel [ shli-mah-zuhl ], “an inept, bungling person who suffers from unremitting bad luck.” Yiddish is a language that combines German and Hebrew, among other languages, which you can see from the etymology of the word. Shlim comes from the German schlimm meaning “bad,” and mazel comes from the Hebrew for “destiny.” A schlimazel is literally someone who has a bad destiny.


A bonehead, or blockhead, is a “a foolish or stupid person.” The term was popularized by Major League Baseball player Fred “Bonehead” Merkle. He earned this unfortunate nickname because of an infamous base-running error when he was a rookie teenager—he ran to the dugout at the end of an inning, but forgot to touch second base, resulting in an out. The 1908 error became known as Merkle’s Boner.


Another “Americanism” for a fool is lunkhead, “a dull or stupid person.” The origin of lunk is unknown, but it may be a combination of lump and hunk (the original term for a himbo?). One of the earliest examples of this term was in Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn (1884) to describe people at a circus.


A riff on the -head terms for a fool is numbskull, or numskull, “a dull-witted or stupid person.” An earlier spelling for this word was numpscull. The earliest record of the contemporary spelling of this word comes from a letter by the polemicist Jonathan Swift who wrote to a certain Mr. Wood in 1724, “I remember not to have known a greater numbskull than thou art.” Sick burn.


As we noted earlier, birds come up a lot in terms describing fools. It isn’t clear how birds got such a bad reputation. (In fact, some birds are quite smart by human standards, and corvids in particular are sometimes described as having the same intelligence as a child.) One such insulting term is birdbrain, which means “a stupid, foolish, or scatterbrained person.”


The word pigeon of course refers to those ubiquitous city-dwelling birds, but it is also an antique slang term for “a person who is easily fooled or cheated; dupe.” This meaning of pigeon is found in the 1960s slang term pigeon artist, an alternative term for a conman.


Although gull looks like a bird reference, it actually has a different origin. As a noun, gull can refer, of course, to a seagull, but it can also mean “a person who is easily deceived or cheated; dupe.” This is where we get the more common gullible. The word gull in this sense comes from the verb gull meaning “to dupe, cheat, befool.”


Clod literally means “a lump or mass, especially of earth or clay.” However, it is also used figuratively to mean “a stupid person; blockhead; dolt.” The use of the word in this sense dates to the 1500s, where it was sometimes elaborated on with -poll or -pole, an archaic term for “head,” as in clod-poll. As you might have gathered by now, insulting someone’s heads or brains is a common way to call someone a fool.


The word stooge literally means “an entertainer who feeds lines to the main comedian and usually serves as the butt of his or her jokes.” It also is used more generally to mean “any underling, assistant, or accomplice.” However, in popular usage, calling someone a stooge implies that they are foolish. It’s possible that this meaning was popularized by the famous comedians The Three Stooges who were known for acting ridiculous.

Have some more fun with language by learning some amusing alternatives for the word fun.


A boob is more than just a female breast. It can also mean “a stupid person; fool; dunce.” The word is a backformation from the earlier booby, which was a corruption of the earlier pooby. Pooby in turn comes from a combination of the verb poop meaning “to befool” and baby—literally, poop baby.


You may have already noticed that many of the terms for fools have archaic origins. One such term is pilgarlic, “a person regarded with mild or pretended contempt or pity.” The term originally referred to “a baldheaded man.” The word itself comes from the earlier pyllyd garleke, “a metaphor for a bald man, whose head is compared to a peeled garlic bulb.”


Sometimes these words get straight to the point, which is the case with dolt, “a dull, stupid person; blockhead.” Dolt is a variant of the obsolete dold, meaning “stupid.” And the verb dolt—also obsolete—used to mean “befool” or, later, “to play the fool.”


Another word for a dolt is a chump, “a stupid person.” The word chump originally meant “a short, thick piece of wood.” In essence, calling someone a chump is comparing them to a piece of wood.


A patsy is “a person who is the object of a joke, ridicule, or the like.” On April Fools’ Day, you’re always at risk of being someone’s patsy, or target for a prank. The origins of this word are unknown, although it may originate from or have been popularized by vaudevillian character Patsy Bolivar, who was often the butt of a joke.


Another word for a patsy is a dupe, “a person who is easily deceived or fooled.” It is possible that this word’s origins circle back to birds by way of French and Latin, specifically the hoopoe, a bird thought to be especially stupid.

Take our quiz that is no fool’s errand

Do you think you’re a fool or are you confident you have a handle on all of these terms for fools? If you want to avoid being duped, you can review the terms with our word list here. If you’re sure you’re no nincompoop, you can test your knowledge of these foolish terms on our quiz.

Show the fools in your life some love as well with one of these popular love idioms.

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