a type of inexpensive writing paper, especially legal-size, lined, yellow sheets, bound in tablet form.
Chiefly British. a size of drawing or printing paper, 13.5 × 17 inches (34 × 43 cm). Abbreviation: cap., fcp.
Also called foolscap octavo. a size of book, about 4.25 × 6.75 inches (11 × 17 cm), untrimmed.
Also called foolscap quarto. Chiefly British. a size of book, about 6.75 × 8.5 inches (17 × 22 cm) untrimmed.

Origin of foolscap

First recorded in 1690–1700; so called from the watermark of a fool's cap formerly used on such paper Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for foolscap

Historical Examples of foolscap

  • Only Marcia noticed that the hand which took up the foolscap shook a little.

    The Coryston Family

    Mrs. Humphry Ward

  • The letter was a long one, covering several sheets of foolscap.


    Joseph C. Lincoln

  • Judge Baxter folded the sheets of foolscap and laid them on the table.


    Joseph C. Lincoln

  • To her who received it the one syllable was more than a page of foolscap.

  • Green held out a pen to him and pointed to the bottom of the foolscap.

    The Grell Mystery

    Frank Froest

British Dictionary definitions for foolscap



mainly British a size of writing or printing paper, 13 1/2 by 17 inches or 13 1/4 by 16 1/2 inches
a book size, 4 1/4 by 6 3/4 inches (foolscap octavo) or (chiefly Brit) 6 3/4 by 8 1/2 inches (foolscap quarto)
a variant spelling of fool's cap

Word Origin for foolscap

C17: see fool 1, cap; so called from the watermark formerly used on this kind of paper
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 foolscap

literally "fool's cap; cap worn by jesters," 1630s; c.1700 as a type of paper, so called because this type of paper originally was watermarked with a court jester's cap.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper