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[half-wit, hahf-]
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  1. a person who is feeble-minded.
  2. a person who is foolish or senseless; dunderhead.
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Origin of half-wit

First recorded in 1670–80


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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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Examples from the Web for half-wit

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • "For the family," was Cleena's watchword, and it had already become the half-wit's.

    Reels and Spindles

    Evelyn Raymond

  • "No half-wit about you," admiringly quoth the carpenter's mate.

    Blackbeard: Buccaneer

    Ralph D. Paine

  • Allie Mulberry the half-wit was one of the highlights of life in the town.

    Poor White

    Sherwood Anderson

  • Beside being a half-wit he had something the matter with his legs.

    Poor White

    Sherwood Anderson

  • For what the half-wit did was what he had seen these others do.

    The Broken Gate

    Emerson Hough

Word Origin and History for half-wit


1670s, originally "a would-be wit whose abilities are mediocre;" sense of "simpleton" (one lacking all his wits) is first attested 1755.

Half-wits are fleas; so little and so light,
We scarce could know they live, but that they bite.
[Dryden, "All for Love"]

Phrase out of half wit "half out of one's mind" was in Middle English (late 14c.). Half-witted "lacking common sense" is from 1640s.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper