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April Fools' Day

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noun
April 1, a day when practical jokes or tricks are played on unsuspecting people.
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Also called All Fools' Day .

Origin of April Fools' Day

First recorded in 1745–50; the variant All Fools' Day is first recorded in 1700–05

historical usage of April Fools' Day

April Fools’ Day (or April Fool’s Day ) started out as April-Fool Day in 1748. April-Fool Day was a variant or replacement of the earlier All Fools’ Day, humorously modeled on All Saints’ Day (November 1) or All Souls’ Day (November 2), and first recorded in 1702. The custom of playing pranks or practical jokes seems to have been imported into Britain from France, if for no other reason than that the 15th-century French musical composer and poet Eloy d’Amerval uses the equivalent French term, poisson d’avril, literally “April fish,” in 1508, the first reference to the practice in France, and continuing to this day in France, Italy, Belgium, and the Francophone regions of Switzerland and Canada. The explanation for the “fish” in the French term gets into murky territory, as there are competing stories behind that. It may have to do with the fact that at one time it was forbidden to fish during the month of April, while fish were spawning, and therefore the claim that you dined on or served fish would have had to have been a prank or joke. (It is still the custom in France and elsewhere in Europe to stick a paper fish on someone’s back.)
By the mid-16th century, the holiday was established in Western Europe. The 17th-century English antiquary John Aubrey used the phrase Fooles holy day (1686), the first reference in English to the tradition. Twelve years later, on April 1, 1698, some gullible people were tricked into going to the Tower of London for the “annual ceremony of the washing of the lions,” an elaborate prank involving admission cards and nonexistent lions and which lasted through the 19th century. Part of the observed customs of the “feast” is that the jokes and pranks shall end at noon; otherwise one is simply acting in bad taste.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022

MORE ABOUT APRIL FOOLS' DAY

What is April Fools' Day?

April Fools’ Day is a lighthearted holiday that people observe by playing pranks and practical jokes.

Such tricks may be minor (like secretly swapping the ink cartridge in someone’s 1 mm-point pen with a .38 mm-point one) or elaborate (like broadcasting a fake documentary about people harvesting spaghetti from “spaghetti trees”).

The term April fool is used to refer to a prank played on April Fools’ Day or to the person who’s the victim of such a prank (the “fool”).

After playing an April Fools’ Day prank, it’s common for the prankster to say, “April fool!” or “April fools!”

April Fools’ Day is also commonly spelled April Fool’s Day and April Fools Day. It can also be called All Fools’ Day, but this is much less common.

When is April Fools' Day?

April Fools’ Day is always on April 1, though in Antarctica it’s observed on March 32.

Where does April Fools' Day come from?

The first records of the term April Fools’ Day come from the mid-1700s (it’s first recorded in the form April-Fool Day in 1748). The term All Fools’ Day (humorously modeled on All Saints’ Day) is thought to be slightly older, with the first records of it coming from the early 1700s.

The ultimate origin of the tradition of April Fools’ Day is uncertain, but April 1 has been observed as a day of pranks in different places in Europe since at least the 1500s. The practice of playing pranks on April 1 may derive from the French custom known as poisson d’avril, which literally means “April fish” and involves pinning a paper fish to a person’s back (classic).

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What are some other forms related to April Fools’ Day?

  • April Fool’s Day (alternate spelling)
  • April Fools Day (alternate spelling)

What are some synonyms for April Fools’ Day?

What are some words that share a root or word element with April Fools’ Day

What are some words that often get used in discussing April Fools’ Day?

How is April Fools' Day used in real life?

April Fools’ Day is known as a lighthearted holiday during which people engage in harmless pranks. But it’s also dreaded by some as a day on which some people take pranks too far.

 

 

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April Fools’ Day is sometimes called All Fools’ Day.

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