Definition of dunce in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /dəns/


A person who is slow at learning; a stupid person.
Example sentences
  • I'm such a dunce walking into a stupid place like this but its not like they could identify me.
  • But depression returned when we kept thinking it was dominated by ignorant dunces.
  • And I think I can say, with all fairness, that the management thinks I'm a dunce.


Early 16th century: originally an epithet for a follower of John Duns Scotus (Duns Scotus, John), whose followers were ridiculed by 16th-century humanists and reformers as enemies of learning.

  • In the Middle Ages the Scottish 13th-century theologian and scholar John Duns Scotus was a profoundly influential figure. His works were university textbooks, and his followers so numerous that they had a name, Scotists. But from the 16th century the Scotists' views became old-fashioned and they were attacked and ridiculed, especially for making unnecessarily fine distinctions. The Scotists acquired a new name: Dunsmen or Dunses. A Duns was a ‘hair-splitter’, ‘a dull pedant’, and ‘a person who is slow at learning’. The last is the sense of dunce which survives to this day.

Words that rhyme with dunce


For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: dunce

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.