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Fool vs. Idiot: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed || Updated on December 25, 2023
A fool is someone who acts unwisely or imprudently, often lacking judgment or sense, while an idiot is a term historically used for someone with very low intellectual capacity, often considered offensive in modern usage.
Fool vs. Idiot

Key Differences

Fool is generally used to describe someone who lacks judgment or prudence, often making unwise decisions or actions. It implies a lack of common sense rather than a lack of intelligence. Idiot, on the other hand, historically referred to someone with a very low level of intelligence or mental capability, often to an extent that interferes with daily functioning.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 29, 2023
The term fool can be used in a less serious, sometimes playful context, to describe someone who is acting silly or imprudently. It’s often not meant to be deeply offensive but rather to point out a lapse in judgment. Idiot is a more severe term, often considered derogatory and offensive. It implies a profound level of intellectual deficiency.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 29, 2023
Fool is a term that has been used in various cultural contexts, such as the court jester or fool in medieval times, who was employed to entertain with clever antics and jokes. The role of a fool in history was often to provide humor and entertainment. Idiot has no such historical or cultural role and has always been used as a term to denote extreme intellectual challenges.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 29, 2023
In literature, a fool is often a character who, through their lack of judgment or silly antics, inadvertently reveals truths or provides insights, sometimes being wise in their foolishness. An idiot in literature is portrayed as lacking basic intellectual abilities, and this term is rarely used to convey hidden wisdom or insight.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Nov 29, 2023
In summary, while fool can describe someone acting without wisdom or sense, often in a temporary or specific context, idiot is a more severe term historically used to describe someone with extremely low intelligence. The use of "idiot" is generally discouraged in modern language due to its derogatory and offensive nature.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 29, 2023
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Comparison Chart

Definition

Someone who acts unwisely or imprudently.
Historically, someone with very low intellectual capacity.
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Severity

Often less severe, can be playful.
More severe, often considered offensive.
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Historical/Cultural Role

Fools were entertainers like court jesters.
No such cultural or positive role.
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Literary Usage

Can be wise in their foolishness.
Portrayed with a lack of basic intellect.
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Nov 29, 2023

Modern Usage

Less offensive, can denote temporary imprudence.
Generally offensive and derogatory.
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Nov 29, 2023
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Fool and Idiot Definitions

Fool

A jester or entertainer in medieval courts.
The king’s fool was clever with his words and jokes.
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Idiot

A term implying a lack of common sense or basic intellectual ability.
He regretted his harsh words, calling his friend an idiot.
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Nov 29, 2023

Fool

Someone who is tricked or deceived easily.
She felt like a fool after falling for the scam.
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Idiot

An offensive term for someone perceived as having very low intelligence.
Calling someone an idiot is considered disrespectful.
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Fool

Acting silly or making jokes.
He’s always playing the fool at parties.
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Idiot

Used historically to describe severe intellectual disability.
The term “idiot” was once a category in intelligence testing.
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Fool

One who is deficient in judgment, sense, or understanding.
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Oct 19, 2023

Idiot

Used in anger or irritation to imply foolishness.
He called himself an idiot for forgetting the keys.
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Fool

One who acts unwisely on a given occasion
I was a fool to have quit my job.
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Oct 19, 2023

Idiot

Derogatory slang for someone acting in a foolishly.
In frustration, she muttered idiot under her breath.
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Fool

One who has been tricked or made to appear ridiculous; a dupe
They made a fool of me by pretending I had won.
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Oct 19, 2023

Idiot

A person who is considered foolish or stupid.
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Oct 19, 2023

Fool

(Informal) A person with a talent or enthusiasm for a certain activity
A dancing fool.
A fool for skiing.
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Oct 19, 2023

Idiot

A person with profound intellectual disability having a mental age below three years and generally unable to learn connected speech or guard against common dangers. The term belongs to a classification system no longer in use and is now considered offensive.
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Fool

A member of a royal or noble household who provided entertainment, as with jokes or antics; a jester.
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Oct 19, 2023

Idiot

(pejorative) A person of low general intelligence.
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Oct 19, 2023

Fool

One who subverts convention or orthodoxy or varies from social conformity in order to reveal spiritual or moral truth
A holy fool.
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Oct 19, 2023

Idiot

(pejorative) A person who makes stupid decisions; a fool.
We think that people who cycle without a helmet are idiots.
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Oct 19, 2023

Fool

A dessert made of stewed or puréed fruit mixed with cream or custard and served cold.
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Oct 19, 2023

Idiot

A person of the lowest intellectual standing, a person who lacks the capacity to develop beyond the mental age of a normal four-year-old; a person with an IQ below 30.
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Oct 19, 2023

Fool

(Archaic) A mentally deficient person; an idiot.
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Oct 19, 2023

Idiot

(uncommon) idiotic, stupid
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Fool

To deceive or trick; dupe
"trying to learn how to fool a trout with a little bit of floating fur and feather" (Charles Kuralt).
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Oct 19, 2023

Idiot

A man in private station, as distinguished from one holding a public office.
St. Austin affirmed that the plain places of Scripture are sufficient to all laics, and all idiots or private persons.
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Oct 19, 2023

Fool

To confound or prove wrong; surprise, especially pleasantly
We were sure they would fail, but they fooled us.
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Oct 19, 2023

Idiot

An unlearned, ignorant, or simple person, as distinguished from the educated; an ignoramus.
Christ was received of idiots, of the vulgar people, and of the simpler sort, while he was rejected, despised, and persecuted even to death by the high priests, lawyers, scribes, doctors, and rabbis.
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Oct 19, 2023

Fool

To speak or act facetiously or in jest; joke
I was just fooling when I said I had to leave.
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Oct 19, 2023

Idiot

A human being destitute of the ordinary intellectual powers, whether congenital, developmental, or accidental; commonly, a person without understanding from birth; a natural fool. In a former classification of mentally retarded people, idiot designated a person whose adult level of intelligence was equivalent to that of a three-year old or younger; this corresponded with an I.Q. level of approximately 25 or less.
Life . . . is a taleTold by an idiot, full of sound and fury,Signifying nothing.
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Oct 19, 2023

Fool

To behave comically; clown.
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Oct 19, 2023

Idiot

A fool; a simpleton; - a term of reproach.
Weenest thou make an idiot of our dame?
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Oct 19, 2023

Fool

To feign; pretend
He said he had a toothache but he was only fooling.
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Oct 19, 2023

Idiot

A person of subnormal intelligence
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Oct 19, 2023

Fool

To engage in idle or frivolous activity.
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Oct 19, 2023

Fool

To toy, tinker, or mess
Shouldn't fool with matches.
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Oct 19, 2023

Fool

Foolish; stupid
Off on some fool errand or other.
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Oct 19, 2023

Fool

(pejorative) A person with poor judgment or little intelligence.
You were a fool to cross that busy road without looking.
The village fool threw his own shoes down the well.
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Oct 19, 2023

Fool

(historical) A jester; a person whose role was to entertain a sovereign and the court (or lower personages).
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Oct 19, 2023

Fool

(informal) Someone who derives pleasure from something specified.
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Oct 19, 2023

Fool

Buddy, dude, man.
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Oct 19, 2023

Fool

(cooking) A type of dessert made of puréed fruit and custard or cream.
An apricot fool; a gooseberry fool
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Oct 19, 2023

Fool

A particular card in a tarot deck, representing a jester.
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Oct 19, 2023

Fool

To trick; to deceive.
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Oct 19, 2023

Fool

To act in an idiotic manner; to act foolishly.
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Oct 19, 2023

Fool

(archaic) To make a fool of; to make act the fool.
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Oct 19, 2023

Fool

(informal) Foolish.
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Oct 19, 2023

Fool

A compound of gooseberries scalded and crushed, with cream; - commonly called gooseberry fool.
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Oct 19, 2023

Fool

One destitute of reason, or of the common powers of understanding; an idiot; a natural.
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Oct 19, 2023

Fool

A person deficient in intellect; one who acts absurdly, or pursues a course contrary to the dictates of wisdom; one without judgment; a simpleton; a dolt.
Extol not riches, then, the toil of fools.
Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other.
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Oct 19, 2023

Fool

One who acts contrary to moral and religious wisdom; a wicked person.
The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.
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Oct 19, 2023

Fool

One who counterfeits folly; a professional jester or buffoon; a retainer formerly kept to make sport, dressed fantastically in motley, with ridiculous accouterments.
Can they think me . . . their fool or jester?
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Oct 19, 2023

Fool

To play the fool; to trifle; to toy; to spend time in idle sport or mirth.
Is this a time for fooling?
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Oct 19, 2023

Fool

To infatuate; to make foolish.
For, fooled with hope, men favor the deceit.
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Oct 19, 2023

Fool

To use as a fool; to deceive in a shameful or mortifying manner; to impose upon; to cheat by inspiring foolish confidence; as, to fool one out of his money.
You are fooled, discarded, and shook offBy him for whom these shames ye underwent.
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Oct 19, 2023

Fool

A person who lacks good judgment
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Oct 19, 2023

Fool

A person who is gullible and easy to take advantage of
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Fool

A professional clown employed to entertain a king or nobleman in the middle ages
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Oct 19, 2023

Fool

Make a fool or dupe of
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Oct 19, 2023

Fool

Spend frivolously and unwisely;
Fritter away one's inheritance
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Fool

Fool or hoax;
The immigrant was duped because he trusted everyone
You can't fool me!
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Oct 19, 2023

Fool

Indulge in horseplay;
Enough horsing around--let's get back to work!
The bored children were fooling about
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Oct 19, 2023

Fool

A person who acts unwisely or imprudently.
He played the fool, making everyone laugh with his antics.
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Nov 29, 2023

Fool

A character in literature often symbolizing a hidden wisdom.
Shakespeare often used a fool to convey deeper truths.
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Nov 29, 2023

Repeatedly Asked Queries

Is 'idiot' an acceptable term to use?

It's generally considered disrespectful and offensive.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 29, 2023

What does 'idiot' mean?

An offensive term for someone with perceived low intelligence.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 29, 2023

Does 'idiot' have a medical definition?

Historically, yes, but not in modern medical terminology.
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Nov 29, 2023

Can 'fool' imply naivety?

Yes, it can suggest a lack of worldly experience.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 29, 2023

What does 'fool' mean?

Someone who acts unwisely or without good judgment.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 29, 2023

Can 'fool' be a term of endearment?

In some contexts, it can be used affectionately.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 29, 2023

Why is 'idiot' offensive?

Because it derogatorily refers to someone’s intelligence.
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Nov 29, 2023

What is a 'fool's errand'?

A pointless or impossible task.
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Nov 29, 2023

Are 'fools' always unintelligent?

Not necessarily; they may simply lack judgment in certain situations.
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Nov 29, 2023

Is 'fool' always negative?

Not always, it can be used playfully or lightly.
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Nov 29, 2023

Was 'fool' used historically in a positive sense?

Yes, like the wise court jesters in medieval times.
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Nov 29, 2023

How has the use of 'idiot' changed over time?

It has shifted from a clinical to a derogatory term.
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Nov 29, 2023

Can someone act the fool intentionally?

Yes, often for humor or to make a point.
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Nov 29, 2023

Is 'idiot' ever used in a non-offensive way?

Rarely, as it's almost always seen as derogatory.
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Nov 29, 2023

What is a 'wise fool'?

A character who appears foolish but speaks wisdom.
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Nov 29, 2023

Are there synonyms for 'idiot' that are less offensive?

Terms like 'silly' or 'unwise' are less harsh.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Nov 29, 2023

What's the difference between a 'fool' and a 'clown'?

A clown is more about entertainment, while a fool can be unintentionally unwise.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 29, 2023

Is it politically correct to use 'idiot'?

Generally, no, as it's considered derogatory.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Nov 29, 2023

Is 'idiot' used in literature?

Yes, but typically to convey a negative attribute.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Nov 29, 2023

Can 'idiot' be used jokingly among friends?

Context matters, but it can still be offensive.
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Nov 29, 2023

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About Author
Shumaila Saeed
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Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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