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Foolishness is the lack of wisdom. In this sense it differs from stupidity, which is the lack of intelligence. An act of foolishness is sometimes referred to as a folly, and people who do it a lot may be called Fools.


  • The philosophies of one age have become the absurdities of the next, and the foolishness of yesterday has become the wisdom of tomorrow.
    • William Osler, address to the Canadian Medical Association, Montreal (17 September 1902); published in The Montreal Medical Journal, Vol. XXXI (1902).
  • To swallow gudgeons ere they're catch'd,
    And count their chickens ere they're hatch'd.
  • Fools are my theme, let satire be my song.
    • Lord Byron, English Bards and Scotch Reviewers (1809), line 6.
  • More knave than fool.
  • A fool must now and then be right by chance.
  • The solemn fog; significant and budge;
    A fool with judges, amongst fools a judge.
  • Defend me, therefore, common sense, say
    From reveries so airy, from the toil
    Of dropping buckets into empty wells,
    And growing old in drawing nothing up.
  • The right to be a cussed fool
    Is safe from all devices human,
    It's common (ez a gin'l rule)
    To every critter born of woman.
  • The rest on outside merit but presume,
    Or serve (like other fools) to fill a room.
  • So by false learning is good sense defac'd;
    Some are bewilder'd in the maze of schools,
    And some made coxcombs Nature meant but fools.
  • The fool is happy that he knows no more.
  • Whether the charmer sinner it, or saint it,
    If folly grow romantic, I must paint it.
  • Die and endow a college or a cat.
    • Alexander Pope, Moral Essays (1731-35), Epistle III. To Bathurst, line 96.
  • A fool, a fool! I met a fool i' the forest,
    A motley fool; a miserable world!
    As I do live by food, I met a fool;
    Who laid him down and bask'd him in the sun.
  • I had rather have a fool to make me merry than experience to make me sad: and to travel for it too!
  • Let the doors be shut upon him, that he may play the fool nowhere but in 's own house.
  • Well, thus we play the fools with the time, and the spirits of the wise sit in the clouds and mock us.
  • The fool hath planted in his memory
    An army of good words; and I do know
    A many fools, that stand in better place,
    Garnish'd like him, that for a tricksy word
    Defy the matter.
  • This fellow is wise enough to play the fool;
    And to do that well craves a kind of wit.
  • Marry, sir, they praise me and make an ass of me; now my foes tell me plainly I am an ass; so that by my foes, sir, I profit in the knowledge of myself.
  • For take thy ballaunce if thou be so wise,
    And weigh the winde that under heaven doth blow;
    Or weigh the light that in the east doth rise;
    Or weigh the thought that from man's mind doth flow.
    • Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene (1589-96), Book V, Canto II, Stanza 43.
  • Be wise with speed;
    A fool at forty is a fool indeed.
    • Edward Young, Love of Fame (1725-28), Satire II, line 281.
  • At thirty man suspects himself a fool;
    Knows it at forty, and reforms his plan.
    • Edward Young, Night Thoughts (1742-1745), Night I, line 417.
  • To climb life's worn, heavy wheel
    Which draws up nothing new.
  • Men may live fools, but fools they cannot die.
    • Edward Young, Night Thoughts (1742-1745), Night IV. Last line.
  • We bleed, we tremble; we forget, we smile—
    The mind turns fool, before the cheek is dry.
    • Edward Young, Night Thoughts (1742-1745), Night V, line 511.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations[edit]

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 283-85.
  • The folly of one man is the fortune of another.
  • Un sot trouve toujours un plus sot qui l'admire.
  • Folly loves the martyrdom of Fame.
    • Lord Byron, Monody on the Death of the Right Hon. R. B. Sheridan, line 68.
  • Mas acompañados y paniguados debe di tener la locura que la discrecion.
  • Young men think old men are fools; but old men know young men are fools.
  • Les plus courtes folies sont les meilleures.
    • The shortest follies are the best.
    • Pierre Charron, Las Sagesse, Book I, Chapter 3.
  • Stultorum plena sunt omnia.
    • All places are filled with fools.
    • Cicero, Epistles, IX. 22.
  • Culpa enim illa, bis ad eundem, vulgari reprehensa proverbio est.
    • To stumble twice against the same stone, is a proverbial disgrace.
    • Cicero, Epistles, X. 20.
  • Hain't we got all the fools in town on our side? And ain't that a big enough majority in any town?
  • L'exactitude est le sublime des sots.
    • Exactness is the sublimity of fools.
    • Attributed to Fontenelle, who disclaimed it.
  • A rational reaction against irrational excesses and vagaries of skepticism may * * * readily degenerate into the rival folly of credulity.
  • He is a fool
    Who only sees the mischiefs that are past.
    • Homer, The Iliad, Book XVII, line 39. Bryant's translation.
  • Stultorum incurata malus pudor ulcera celat.
    • The shame of fools conceals their open wounds.
    • Horace, Epistles, I. 16. 24.
  • Adde cruorem
    Stultitiæ, atque ignem gladio scrutare.
    • To your folly add bloodshed, and stir the fire with the sword.
    • Horace, Satires, II. 3. 275.
  • A man may be as much a fool from the want of sensibility as the want of sense.
  • Fears of the brave and follies of the wise.
  • Un fat celui que les sots croient un homme de mérite.
    • A fool is one whom simpletons believe to be a man of merit.
    • Jean de La Bruyère, Les Caractères, XII.
  • Hélas! on voit que de tout temps
    Les Petits ont pâti des sottises des grands.
    • Alas! we see that the small have always suffered for the follies of the great.
    • Jean de La Fontaine, Fables, II. 4.
  • Ce livre n'est pas long, on le voit en une heure;
    La plus courte folie est toujours la meilleure.
    • This book is not long, one may run over it in an hour; the shortest folly is always the best.
    • La Girandière, Le Recueil des Voyeux Epigrammes.
  • Qui vit sans folie n'est pas si sage qu'il croit.
  • A fool! a fool! my coxcomb for a fool!
  • I have play'd the fool, the gross fool, to believe
    The bosom of a friend will hold a secret
    Mine own could not contain.
  • Young men think old men fools, and old men know young men to be so.
    • Quoted by Camden as a saying of Dr. Metcalf.
  • Quantum est in rebus inane!
    How much folly there is in human affairs.
  • An old doting fool, with one foot already in the grave.
    • Plutarch, Morals, On the Training of Children.
  • No creature smarts so little as a fool.
  • Leave such to trifle with more grace and ease,
    Whom Folly pleases, and whose Follies please.
  • Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise.
    • Proverbs, XVII. 28.
  • Every fool will be meddling.
    • Proverbs, XX. 3.
  • Answer a fool according to his folly.
    • Proverbs, XXVI. 5.
  • Though thou shouldest bray a fool in a mortar among wheat with a pestle, yet will not his foolishness depart from him.
    • Proverbs, XXVII. 22.
  • The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.
    • Psalms, XIV. 1; LIII. 1.
  • Qui stultis videri eruditi volunt, stulti eruditis videntur.
    • Those who wish to appear wise among fools, among the wise seem foolish.
    • Quintilian, X. 7. 22.
  • After a man has sown his wild oats in the years of his youth, he has still every year to get over a few weeks and days of folly.
  • Stultus est qui fructus magnarum arborum spectat, altitudinem non metitur.
    • He is a fool who looks at the fruit of lofty trees, but does not measure their height.
    • Quintus Curtius Rufus, De Rebus Gestis Alexandri Magni, VII, 8.
  • Insipientis est dicere, Non putaram.
    • It is the part of a fool to say, I should not have thought.
    • Scipio Africanus. See Cicero, De Off, XXIII. 81. Valerius, Book VII. 2. 2.
  • Where lives the man that has not tried,
    How mirth can into folly glide,
    And folly into sin!
  • Inter cætera mala hoc quoque habet
    Stultitia semper incipit vivere.
    • Among other evils folly has also this, that it is always beginning to live.
    • Seneca the Younger, Epistolæ Ad Lucilium, 13.
  • 'Tis not by guilt the onward sweep
    Of truth and right, O Lord, we stay;
    'Tis by our follies that so long
    We hold the earth from heaven away.
  • He has spent all his life in letting down empty buckets into empty wells, and he is frittering away his age in trying to draw them up again.
  • He had been eight years upon a project for extracting sunbeams out of cucumbers, which were to be put in phials hermetically sealed, and let out to warm the air in raw, inclement summers.
    • Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels, Part III, Chapter V. Voyage to Laputa.
  • Chi conta i colpi e la dovuta offesa,
    Mentr' arde la tenzon, misura e pesa?
    • A fool is he that comes to preach or prate,
      When men with swords their right and wrong debate.
    • Torquato Tasso, Gerusalemme, V. 57.
  • Qui se croit sage, ô ciel! est un grand fou.
    • He who thinks himself wise, O heavens! is a great fool.
    • Voltaire, Le Droit du Seigneur, IV. 1.
  • The greatest men
    May ask a foolish question, now and then.

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