[ bam-boo-zuhl ]
See synonyms for bamboozle on
verb (used with object),bam·boo·zled, bam·boo·zling.
  1. to deceive or get the better of (someone) by trickery, flattery, or the like; humbug; hoodwink (often followed by into): They bamboozled us into joining the club.

verb (used without object),bam·boo·zled, bam·boo·zling.
  1. to practice trickery, deception, cozenage, or the like: He has been known to bamboozle, so I don't trust him.

Origin of bamboozle

First recorded in 1695–1705; origin uncertain

word story For bamboozle

Bamboozle is one of those words that has been confounding etymologists for centuries. No one knows for sure what its origins are. One thing we do know is that it was originally considered “low language,” at least among such defenders of the language as British satirist Jonathan Swift, who hoped (and predicted) that it would quickly fade from the English lexicon.
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.

Other words for bamboozle

Other words from bamboozle

  • bam·boo·zle·ment, noun
  • bam·boo·zler, noun

Words Nearby bamboozle Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use bamboozle in a sentence

  • 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


/ (bæmˈbuːzəl) /

verb(tr) informal
  1. to cheat; mislead

  2. to confuse

Origin of bamboozle

C18: of unknown origin

Derived forms of bamboozle

  • 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