This word is now associated with a child who finds it difficult to learn anything new. Other children might call a dunce: a block-head, a clodpoll, dim-wit, dull-dick, dullard, dunderpate, numbskull, chump, peabrain, or putty-brain, depending on the area they live in. The present meaning of ‘dunce’ came about in the sixteenth century, having developed from the earlier sense of ‘follower of Duns Scotus’. John Duns Scotus, who died in 1308, was a scholastic theologian, born in Dunse, Scotland. When the Dunsers, as they were known, saw that a more modern theology was replacing the ideas of Duns Scotus, they made a great fuss. Others saw them as being opposed to learning and progress, and Dunser therefore began to take on its new meaning. At one time a child who was thought to be a dunce would be made to stand in the corner of the classroom, wearing a conical cap with a D on it. The dunce’s cap was still in use in the first half of the nineteenth century. In its general sense of ‘blockhead’, ‘you dunces’ occurs vocatively in She Stoops to Conquer, by Oliver Goldsmith. Mr Hardcastle uses the term to address his servants.

A dictionary of epithets and terms of address . . 2015.

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  • Dunce — Dunce, n. [From Joannes Duns Scotus, a schoolman called the Subtle Doctor, who died in 1308. Originally in the phrase a Duns man . See Note below.] One backward in book learning; a child or other person dull or weak in intellect; a dullard; a… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • dunce — dunce. Ген Drosophila melanogaster, действие которого связано с контролем некоторых элементов поведения (мутации гена dunce ведут к “укорочению памяти”); характеризуется очень большими размерами, занимая 9 дисков политенной Х хромосомы; в… …   Молекулярная биология и генетика. Толковый словарь.

  • dunce — [dʌns] n old fashioned [Date: 1500 1600; Origin: John Duns Scotus (1266? 1308), Scottish religious thinker] someone who is slow at learning things ▪ the dunce of the class …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • Dunce — (engl., spr. Dönnz), 1) Dummkopf; bes. 2) Gelehrter mit wenig Verstand; daher Dunciade (spr. Dönnßiäd), satyrische Epopöe von Pope über die schlechten Dichter seiner Zeit; auch Gedichte von Pallissot u. Schirach …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • dunce — [ dʌns ] noun count OLD FASHIONED 1. ) HUMOROUS a stupid person 2. ) OFFENSIVE someone, especially a child, who has difficulty learning things …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • dunce — dullard, 1570s, from earlier Duns disciple follower of John Duns Scotus (c.1265 1308), Scottish scholar of philosophy and theology supposed to have been born at Duns in Berwickshire. By 16c., humanist reaction against medieval theology singled… …   Etymology dictionary

  • dunce — [n] stupid person ass, birdbrain*, blockhead*, bonehead*, buffoon, dimwit*, dolt, donkey*, dope, dork*, drip*, dullard, dunderhead*, fool, goof, goof ball*, half wit, idiot, ignoramus, imbecile, jerk, knucklehead*, lame brain*, lightweight*,… …   New thesaurus

  • dunce — ► NOUN ▪ a person who is slow at learning. ORIGIN originally a name for a follower of the 13th century Scottish theologian John Duns Scotus, whose followers were ridiculed by humanists and reformers as enemies of learning …   English terms dictionary

  • dunce — [duns] n. [after DUNS SCOTUS John: his followers, called Dunsmen, Dunses, Dunces, were regarded as foes of Renaissance humanism] 1. a dull, ignorant person 2. a person slow at learning …   English World dictionary

  • Dunce — A dunce is a person incapable of learning. The word is derived from the name of the great Scholastic theologian and philosopher John Duns Scotus, also referred to as Doctor Subtillis, or Subtle Doctor , whose works on logic, theology and… …   Wikipedia

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