• WordNet 3.6
    • n dunce a stupid person; these words are used to express a low opinion of someone's intelligence
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Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
    • n Dunce One backward in book learning; a child or other person dull or weak in intellect; a dullard; a dolt.☞ The schoolmen were often called, after their great leader Duns Scotus, Dunsmen or Duncemen. In the revival of learning they were violently opposed to classical studies; hence, the name of Dunce was applied with scorn and contempt to an opposer of learning, or to one slow at learning, a dullard. "I never knew this town without dunces of figure."
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Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
    • n dunce [capitalized] A disciple or follower of John Duns Scotus (see etymology); a Dunce-man; a Scotist.
    • n dunce Hence A caviling, sophistical person; a senseless caviler.
    • n dunce A dull-witted, stupid person; a dolt; an ignoramus.
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Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
    • n Dunce duns one slow at learning: a stupid person
    • ***


  • William Cowper
    “How much a dunce that has been sent to roam, excels a dunce that has been kept at home.”
  • Jonathan Swift
    “When a true genius appears in this world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.”
  • Lord Byron
    “Nothing can confound a wise man more than laughter from a dunce.”
  • Emma Goldman
    “The political arena leaves one no alternative, one must either be a dunce or a rogue.”


Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
From Joannes Duns, Scotus, a schoolman called the Subtle Doctor, who died in 1308. Originally in the phrase “a Duns man”. See Note below
Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
Duns Scotus (died 1308), the Subtle Doctor, leader of the schoolmen, from him called Dunses, who opposed classical studies on the revival of learning—hence any opposer of learning, a blockhead.


In literature:

Can't be Lew's such a dunce as to walk into the red-skins' hands.
"The Riflemen of the Miami" by Edward S. Ellis
The Florentine dunces in art are a multitude; but I only want you to know something about twenty of them.
"Ariadne Florentina" by John Ruskin
It was a kind of penitential class for dunces during play-time.
"The Martian" by George Du Maurier
The real name of our friend Norris is Dunc Boone.
"Brand Blotters" by William MacLeod Raine
But the personal aggression on the wit by the dunce, may fairly instigate the wit to flay the dunce.
"Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 58, Number 358, August 1845" by Various
The French were two to one; but they were ill disciplined, and their general was a dunce.
"Critical and Historical Essays, Volume III (of 3)" by Thomas Babington Macaulay
Perhaps I am awfully stupid; They say I'm a dreadful dunce.
"Harper's Young People, December 30, 1879" by Various
Once upon a time there lived an old couple who had three sons; the two elder were clever, but the third was a regular dunce.
"The Yellow Fairy Book" by Leonora Blanche Alleyne Lang
He was a stupid dunce, and a rascal and a cheat into the bargain.
"The Land of Thor" by J. Ross Browne
She will be our little dunce.
"Hollyhock" by L. T. Meade
And petrify a genius to a dunce.
"Practical Education, Volume II" by Maria Edgeworth
Lilly White, the dunce of the school, had hers written by the beginning of study hours.
"Miss Ashton's New Pupil" by Mrs. S. S. Robbins
Had he been such a Dunce he ne'er had conquer'd, And made the running French for Quarter cry.
"Ponteach" by Robert Rogers
The world's a father to a Dunce unknown, And much he thrives, for Dulness!
"An Essay on Satire, Particularly on the Dunciad" by Walter Harte
A fool, a dunce, or a bad man does harm and not good in the world.
"The Bad Family and Other Stories" by Mrs. Fenwick
Poor dunce of a Rector!
"Mayflower (Flor de mayo)" by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez
Miss Pepperill will think me an awful dunce when I can't learn the sovereigns.
"The Corner House Girls in a Play" by Grace Brooks Hill
After he had been two years at the night-school, so far from considering him a dunce, I regarded him as an amazingly clever lad.
"Wilson's Tales of the Borders and of Scotland" by John Mackay Wilson
Lesbia sometimes, squashed flat by a sarcasm, felt she was metaphorically placed on a stool with a dunce's cap on her head.
"Loyal to the School" by Angela Brazil
Think of the punishment we get, slaps, the dunce stool.
"The Enormous Room" by Horace Leonard Gold

In poetry:

"Ah, little boy, what want you here,
On such a bitter night?
Run home at once, you little dunce,
Or you'll be frozen quite."
"The Dean's Brother" by John Hartley
You can't expect it! Goodness me!
T'would be a dreadful policy!
What sort of Ministerial dunce
Would try to do two things at once?
"Asking Too Much" by C J Dennis
"O Goody," she cried, "what are you doing?"
"Why, spinning, you little dunce!"
The Princess laughed: "'Tis so very funny,
Pray let me try it once!"
"The Sleeping Princess" by Clara Doty Bates
Truly My Satan thou art but a Dunce
And dost not know the Garment from the Man
Every Harlot was a Virgin once
Nor canst thou ever change Kate into Nan
"To The Accuser Who is The God of This World" by William Blake
So I turn tory for the nonce,
And think the radical a bore,
Who cannot see, thick-witted dunce,
That what was good for people once
Must be as good forevermore.
"The Optimist" by James Russell Lowell
"To keep me waiting here, instead
Of telling me at once
That this was not the house!" he said.
"There, that'll do - be off to bed!
Don't gape like that, you dunce!"
"Phantasmagoria Canto VI ( Dyscomfyture )" by Lewis Carroll

In news:

'The Confederacy of Dunces' and an unlikely hero.
Zach Galifianakis to Star in 'A Confederacy of Dunces'.
Latest ' Confederacy of Dunces' movie attempt may star Zach Galifianakis.
Fortuna's Wheel is again aspin, and a confederacy of Hollywood filmmakers are once more reportedly toiling to make a feature film out of the Pulitzer-winning, New Orleans-set comic classic "A Confederacy of Dunces".
Conservatives aren't happy about the latest move by the Obama campaign to undermine his opponent Mitt Romney: an illustration posted on the campaign's Tumblr blog of Mitt Romney in a dunce hat.
Dip 'n' ditch dunce .
Mike Shanahan wears two hats and should add a third - dunce cap.
It's the fault of the dunce who makes the big personnel decisions.
A BRITISHER'S VIEW: Bklyn principal deserves a dunce 's cap for her mean spirit.
Mike Shanahan wears two hats and should add a third - dunce cap .
We've come far from the cane whippings and dunce caps of yesteryear, given to those who misbehave.
When a true genius appears in the world you may know him by this infallible sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.
She's a dunce, they wailed, a conservative shill.
CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Dunc Tank has been shuttered in Cleveland.