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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, whose works on logic, theology and philosophy were accepted textbooks in the universities from the 14th century. Duns or Dunsman was a name applied by early opponents to the followers of Duns Scotus, who were less disparagingly called the Scotists. Hence the term came to refer to anyone devoted to sophistry in their argumentation. When, in the 16th century, the Scotists obstinately opposed the new learning (i.e., the English Renaissance), the term duns or dunce became, in the mouths of the humanists and reformers, a term of abuse, a synonym for one incapable of scholarship. Dunces are often comedically shown wearing paper cone hats, known as dunce caps, with the word "dunce" or "dumb", or simply a capitalized "D" on them. Schoolchildren were sometimes compelled to wear a dunce cap and to sit in a stool in the corner as a form of humiliating punishment for misbehaving or for failing to demonstrate that they had properly performed their studies.

See also


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
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From LoveToKnow 1911

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