View synonyms for folly


[ fol-ee ]


, plural fol·lies
  1. the state or quality of being foolish; lack of understanding or sense.
  2. a foolish action, practice, idea, etc.; absurdity:

    the folly of performing without a rehearsal.

    Synonyms: injudiciousness, foolishness, rashness, imprudence, lunacy, madness, indiscretion, mistake

  3. a costly and foolish undertaking; unwise investment or expenditure.
  4. Architecture. a whimsical or extravagant structure built to serve as a conversation piece, lend interest to a view, commemorate a person or event, etc.: found especially in England in the 18th century.
  5. follies, a theatrical revue.
  6. Obsolete. wickedness; wantonness.


/ ˈfɒlɪ /


  1. the state or quality of being foolish; stupidity; rashness
  2. a foolish action, mistake, idea, etc
  3. a building in the form of a castle, temple, etc, built to satisfy a fancy or conceit, often of an eccentric kind
  4. plural theatre an elaborately costumed revue
  5. archaic.
    1. evil; wickedness
    2. lewdness; wantonness

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Other Words From

  • super·folly noun plural superfollies

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Word History and Origins

Origin of folly1

First recorded in 1175–1225; Middle English folie, from Old French, derivative of fol, fou “foolish, mad”; equivalent to fool 1 + -y 3( def )

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Word History and Origins

Origin of folly1

C13: from Old French folie madness, from fou mad; see fool 1

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Example Sentences

If there is one book that captures the Vietnam War in the sheer Homeric scale of its passion and folly, this book is it.

The folly of inferring 364 days from just one seems obvious.

Philpott, a reporter for Mother Jones, points to the nearby Imperial Valley in Southern California as an example of this folly.

On a November afternoon programmed for football, it’s understandable to get lost in tradition and consider the NFL’s difficulty containing the virus to be inevitable follies.

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s the folly of assuming that extreme scenarios will never come to pass.

From Fortune

It was not until after the Challenger accident that the folly of this approach was realized.

Yeah, too many Democrats signed on to this hideous folly, but the war in Iraq was obviously a GOP production.

But in the long term, Moscow can be made to regret its folly.

In wisely sidestepping the hubristic folly of trying to sum up his own time, he achieved a sort of timelessness.

Whatever the reason behind all this folly, the Georgian people have earned their right to some form of protection by the West.

I hate to be long at my toilette at any time; but to delay much in such a matter while travelling is folly.

Greater mischiefs happen often from folly, meanness, and vanity than from the greater sins of avarice and ambition.

That he laughed at their folly, and went himself in the boat, ordering his men to take a strong cable along with them.

I am ready Madam,—for I have sufficiently experienced the folly of my presuming to decline it.

This new-found joy I long pursued in secret, afraid lest it should be discovered and despised as a folly.


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More About Folly

What does folly mean?

A folly is a foolish action. Follies can refer to various unwise practices, buildings with a purely ornamental purpose, or cabaret-style theatrical revues featuring lots of beautiful, dancing women.

Where does folly come from?

The word folly dates back to the early 13th century, originally meaning “foolishness” or “unwise conduct.” It comes from a French word meaning “mad,” as in “deranged.” In its plural form, follies has referred to “absurdities” since at least the 1400s.

By the 1650s, a folly referred to buildings considered too whimsical, overly expensive, or impractical. In the 18th and 19th centuries, some follies were constructed in Europe as ornamental structures reminiscent of antiquity; others, as in Ireland, were built to provide employment for laborers during famines, such as Connolly’s Folly.

By the 1880s, follies referred to an extravagant theatrical production featuring beautiful women. They were inspired by the Parisian Folies Bergère, which were over-the-top cabaret productions that began in 1872 and continue today. A noted example of the follies was the Ziegfeld Follies, which ran on Broadway from 1907 to 1936 and featured the famed Ziegfeld girls.

How is folly used in real life?

Foolish, impractical behavior is often described as a folly. The unusual, impractical architectural follies built in Ireland have become off-beat tourist attractions.

Theatrical follies have seen something of a renaissance with the 2017 revival of Stephen Sondheim’s 1971 musical Follies at the Royal National Theatre in London. The show tells the story of the demolition of the fictional Weismann Theatre and the reunion of the showgirls of the Weismann Follies. The production was a smash hit, winning the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Musical Revival in 2018.

More examples of folly:

“This new cast recording for #Follies from @NationalTheatre is everything. Perfection.”
—@hanskig88, January 2019

“If Aberdeenshire councillors press ahead with this decision they will have learned nothing from the folly of Angus Council. My ward borders Angus and I see for myself how formerly busy car parks are now lying empty in a council concocted wasteland.”
—Leigh Wilson quoted by Graeme Strachan, The Courier, January 2019


This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.