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noun, plural fol·lies for 2–6.
  1. the state or quality of being foolish; lack of understanding or sense.
  2. a foolish action, practice, idea, etc.; absurdity: the folly of performing without a rehearsal.
  3. a costly and foolish undertaking; unwise investment or expenditure.
  4. Architecture. a whimsical or extravagant structure built to serve as a conversation piece, lend interest to a view, commemorate a person or event, etc.: found especially in England in the 18th century.
  5. follies, a theatrical revue.
  6. Obsolete. wickedness; wantonness.

Origin of folly

1175–1225; Middle English folie < Old French, derivative of fol, fou foolish, mad. See fool1
Related formssu·per·fol·ly, noun, plural su·per·fol·lies.


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2. imprudence, rashness, mistake, foolishness, indiscretion, injudiciousness; madness, lunacy.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for follies


noun plural -lies
  1. the state or quality of being foolish; stupidity; rashness
  2. a foolish action, mistake, idea, etc
  3. a building in the form of a castle, temple, etc, built to satisfy a fancy or conceit, often of an eccentric kind
  4. (plural) theatre an elaborately costumed revue
  5. archaic
    1. evil; wickedness
    2. lewdness; wantonness

Word Origin

C13: from Old French folie madness, from fou mad; see fool 1
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for follies


"revue with glamorous female performers," 1908, from French folies (mid-19c.), from folie (see folly), probably in its sense of "extravagance" (cf. extravaganza).



early 13c., "mental weakness; unwise conduct" (in Middle English including wickedness, lewdness, madness), from Old French folie (12c.) "folly, madness, stupidity," from fol (see fool (n.)). Sense of "costly structure considered to have shown folly in the builder" is attested from 1650s. Used since Middle English of place names, especially country estates, as a form of Old French folie in its meaning "delight." Meaning "glamorous theatrical revue with lots of pretty girls" is from 1880, from French.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper