- 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.
- to perplex; mystify; confound.
- to practice trickery, deception, cozenage, or the like: He bamboozled his way to the top.
Origin of bamboozle
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.
- "The best day for people of any age to trick and be tricked is April Fool's Day, when we celebrate being bamboozled by harmless hoaxes. As Mark Twain said, ‘April 1 is the day on which we are reminded what we are on the other 364.’"-Kathryn Lindskoog Fakes, Frauds & Other Malarkey (1992)
- "Ya been took! Ya been hoodwinked! Bamboozled! Led astray! Run amok!"-Denzel Washington as Malcolm X in the movie Malcolm X, directed by Spike Lee American Rhetoric (1992)
- "They’re counting on that you all forgot. They think that they can run the okey-doke on you. Bamboozle you."-Barack Obama, in a speech at a fundraiser in Atlanta reported by Sam Youngman Obama: Republicans want to ‘bamboozle’ voters this November Ballot Box (blog) (August 2, 2010)
- "I'll bambousle him, I'll befogify his brain."-Thomas Chandler Haliburton The Clockmaker; or The Sayings and Doings of Samuel Slick, of Slickville (1838)
- "Oh, you're a hot-air artist, but you can't bamboozle me!"-Van Zo Post Diana Ardway (1913)
Examples from the Web for bamboozled
Speaking of Bamboozled, every Halloween you hear a horror story of a celebrity in blackface costume.Spike Lee on Blackface, ‘Oldboy,’ ’12 Years a Slave,’ and The Brooklyn Nets
October 31, 2013
Though certainly romantic on the subject, Booker has been neither corralled nor bamboozled.Cory Booker Is Nobody's Dupe
June 24, 2013
Roseanne Barr thinks America has been “bamboozled and hoodwinked.”Roseanne Barr: Why You Should Vote for Me for President
August 8, 2012
Conservatives were “bamboozled,” says former Texas GOP Chairman Tom Pauken.Karl Rove's Flameout
October 22, 2010
She's bamboozled that sap-headed county judge, Boompointer, into givin' it to her.Found At Blazing Star
The Chinese have bamboozled and baffled us, that is the plain truth.The Greville Memoirs (Second Part)
Charles C. F. Greville
And as a matter of fact I was left just as bamboozled as you were.Simon
J. Storer Clouston
You may have bamboozled the President, after all he's only a civilian, but you're not about to fool me!I Was a Teen-Age Secret Weapon
Neither she nor any other shall be befooled and bamboozled under my roof.Imaginary Conversations and Poems
Walter Savage Landor
- to cheat; mislead
- to confuse
Word Origin and History for bamboozled
1703, originally a slang or cant word, perhaps Scottish from bombaze "perplex," related to bombast, or French embabouiner "to make a fool (literally 'baboon') of." Related: Bamboozled; bamboozling. As a noun from 1703.