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Idiot is a word used to describe someone who is stupid. The adjective is idiotic. The noun idiocy describes the state of being idiotic. The word can be used in different ways.

Modern usage[change | change source]

Today "idiot" is often used to show that someone has done something which was not very clever:

  • "You idiot, look at what you just did!" (using the word as a noun)
  • "I think that idea is perfectly idiotic." (using the word as an adjective)

In literature and folklore[change | change source]

The word "fool" is similar to "idiot", but it is not as strong. In the history of drama a "fool" was a jester: someone who made people laugh. Kings often had jesters in real life. A court jester had the job of making the king feel happy when he was sad. Jesters often pretended to be stupid, but were actually very clever. There are jesters and fools in a lot of Shakespeare’s plays.

The word simple can also be similar to "idiot". Someone who is simple is a person who is not very clever or "streetwise". They are naïve and can easily be made to believe things because they are kind and expect everyone else to be kind as well. Such people are often called simpletons.

Idiots or simpletons are commonly used in literature. In German literature (and in Wagner’s opera), Parsifal is described as "perfect fool" because he does not understand the evil ways of the world and is therefore completely good. That is why he can break the magic spell cast by Klingsor. The idiot often appears in Russian literature. Because the idiot is so simple he (it is always a male) is often able to express the truth which other people cannot see. Dostoevsky wrote a novel called The Idiot. It is about a man who is simple and trusting. At the end of the opera Boris Godunov by Mussorgsky the crowd of poor people gather round the simpleton who is the last person to sing in the whole opera. His moans express the fact that Russia will continue to be ruled by cruel dictators and the people will remain poor.