Origin of dummy

1590–1600; 1915–20, Americanism for def 20; dumb + -y3

Usage note

See dumb.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for dummy

Contemporary Examples of dummy

Historical Examples of dummy

  • He walked over to Spud, lifted the dummy into position in the crook of his arm.

  • He walked over to the dummy and touched the wooden head with his hand.

  • Again the dummy's mouth opened, the head bobbed and the eyes blinked.

  • He ran a hand across his eyes, dropped the dummy onto the desk.

  • IN the next two or three days Dummy he got to be powerful popular.

    Tom Sawyer, Detective

    Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)

British Dictionary definitions for dummy


noun plural -mies

a figure representing the human form, used for displaying clothes, in a ventriloquist's act, as a target, etc
  1. a copy or imitation of an object, often lacking some essential feature of the original
  2. (as modifier)a dummy drawer
slang a stupid person; fool
derogatory, slang a person without the power of speech; mute
informal a person who says or does nothing
  1. a person who appears to act for himself while acting on behalf of another
  2. (as modifier)a dummy buyer
military a weighted round without explosives, used in drill and training
  1. the hand exposed on the table by the declarer's partner and played by the declarer
  2. the declarer's partner
  1. a prototype of a proposed book, indicating the general appearance and dimensions of the finished product
  2. a designer's layout of a page indicating the positions for illustrations, etc
a feigned pass or move in a sport such as football or rugby
British a rubber teat for babies to suck or bite onUS and Canadian equivalent: pacifier
(modifier) counterfeit; sham
(modifier) (of a card game) played with one hand exposed or unplayed

verb -mies, -mying or -mied

to prepare a dummy of (a proposed book, page, etc)
Also: sell someone a dummy sport to use a dummy pass in order to trick (an opponent)

Word Origin for dummy

C16: see dumb, -y ³
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 dummy

1590s, "mute person," from dumb (adj.) + -y (3). Extended by 1845 to "figure representing a person." Used in card games (originally whist) since 1736. Meaning "dolt, blockhead" is from 1796.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Culture definitions for dummy


In a corporation, one who stands in for a real director or who serves as a nominal director during the organization of the corporation until the stockholders can elect directors.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.