Dunce

2

Definition: slow-witted, stupid

Pronunciation: say it like you see it, with somewhat of a silent ‘t’- dan(t)s

Origin:

First know use of ‘dunce’ was recorded in the 1570s referring to Philosopher John Duns Scout’s disciples.

Why this word?

If the origin section left you slightly confused- you are right. How can it be that philosopher’s disciples were referred to slow-witted and somewhat stupid? Well, proportion is the name of the game here, and the reason to why I chose the word.

John Duns Scouts was one of the Middle Ages’ greatest scholars, bright to the extent to which he was named Doctor Subtillis, so humble and smart he was. Dealing with philosophy and theology, his teaching attracted a wide range of philosophers, students and admirers who were only willing to learn from him.

His writings were prominent all the way through the Renaissance when new theories swept through Europe. His students who, at earlier times, were called Dunsmen and Duncers for following his teachings, were later on referred to ‘dunce’, since they weren’t interested in learning newer philosophies.

Slow-witted? Stupid? Not so much. Only faithful and loyal. This is the first bit of proportion needed to understand this great word.

Want another bit for proportion? People with learning disabilities and\or dyslexia were once referred to as dunce. Its only now that we know it can be treated and overcome and those kids turned out being the smartest in class.

Yet- the meaning of the word stays intact.

How to use the word dunce in a sentence?

Dunce is an adjective referring to late bloomers and slow learners.

“Matt was slightly dunce in the first years to his schooling; it was only later on that we learned of the actual genius that he is”.

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About Author

Victoria Sheinkin is a writer, content editor, translator and chief editor for UnusedWords.com. Speaking three and a half languages, she holds two BAs from the Tel Aviv university- Communication and jounalism, English literature and linguistics.

  • Karl K

    Your illustration of how to pronounce the word “dunce” was a poor one and incorrect — at least, as the word is used in the USA. A better one would be: “duhnst” (with a slightly silent “t”).

  • Paddleless

    I’ve never seen dunce used as an adjective, and none of my dictionaries show it as anything but a noun.

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