to practice trickery, deception, cozenage, or the like: He has been known to bamboozle, so I don't trust him.
The earliest meaning of bamboozle was “to deceive by trickery, hoodwink,” which is why some believe that it arose among the criminals of the underworld. One colorful, but unlikely, theory has it that bamboozle comes from bombazine, a kind of fabric that, dyed black, used to be worn for mourning. One has to imagine black-bombazine-wearing widows in the mid- to late 17th century bilking young gentlemen out of their purses.
By 1712, it had acquired the sense “to perplex; mystify.” It is not known for certain, but this sense might have emerged under the influence of the Scottish word bumbaze (or bombaze), meaning “to confuse,” similar in both sound and meaning. Given the befuddling qualities of alcohol, it's not too surprising to find that, in the 1800's, bamboozle showed up on college campuses as a slang term for “drunk.”
Far from slinking into obscurity, bamboozle today has left its lowly roots behind and found a secure place in the lexicon of standard English. Its very longevity stands as a reminder that you can't predict or enforce the fate of a word.
— Bamboozle: A board game by Milton Bradley introduced in 1876, notable for featuring the first large folding game board.
— Bamboozle: Milton Bradley introduced another board game with the same name in 1962. This game was based on the 1962 NBC-TV show McKeever and The Colonel.
— Bamboozle: A Parker Brothers (now Hasbro) game from 1997. It is a word game in which one team has to guess the words that another team came up with based on a list of randomly-generated letters.
— Bamboozled: A feature film (2000) directed by Spike Lee, about a frustrated African American television writer who proposes a minstrel show as a form of protest, which unexpectedly becomes a hit.
— The Bamboozle: An annual three-day music festival held in New Jersey.
- bam·boo·zle·ment, noun
- bam·boo·zler, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023
How to use bamboozle in a sentence
Or when he said the Clinton camp was trying to “bamboozle” or “hoodwink” voters?Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama’s Lovefest on ‘60 Minutes’ | Lauren Ashburn | January 28, 2013 | THE DAILY BEAST
His name is used to bamboozle the people, to despoil them, and to make them patient asses under their burdens.Flowers of Freethought | George W. Foote
He saw he could not fool or bamboozle me in the slightest degree.Shadow, the Mysterious Detective | Police Captain Howard
This wandering about I considered necessary in order to delay and perhaps bamboozle any police dog put on my track.13 Days | John Alan Lyde Caunter
It has rather cynically been said that governments are of two kinds—bamboo and bamboozle.Six Letters From the Colonies | Robert Seaton
He would sit on a log with a gypsy, and bamboozle him with lies made for the purpose, then thrash him for not believing them.Mary Marston | George MacDonald
British Dictionary definitions for bamboozle
to cheat; mislead
- bamboozler, noun
- bamboozlement, noun
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