follow Dictionary.com

Love words? Sign up for our Word of the Day!

bamboozle

[bam-boo-zuh l] /bæmˈbu zəl/
verb (used with object), bamboozled, bamboozling.
1.
to deceive or get the better of (someone) by trickery, flattery, or the like; humbug; hoodwink (often followed by into):
They bamboozled us into joining the club.
2.
to perplex; mystify; confound.
verb (used without object), bamboozled, bamboozling.
3.
to practice trickery, deception, cozenage, or the like:
He bamboozled his way to the top.
Origin
1695-1705
1695-1705; origin uncertain
Related forms
bamboozlement, noun
bamboozler, noun
Word story
Bamboozle is one of those words that has been confounding etymologists for centuries. No one knows for sure what its origins are. One thing we do know is that it was originally considered “low language,” at least among such defenders of the language as British satirist Jonathan Swift, who hoped (and predicted) that it would quickly fade from the English lexicon.
The earliest meaning of bamboozle was “to deceive by trickery, hoodwink,” which is why some believe that it arose among the criminals of the underworld. One colorful, but unlikely, theory has it that bamboozle comes from bombazine, a kind of fabric that, dyed black, used to be worn for mourning. One has to imagine black-bombazine-wearing widows in the mid- to late 17th century bilking young gentlemen out of their purses.
By 1712, it had acquired the sense “to perplex; mystify.” It is not known for certain, but this sense might have emerged under the influence of the Scottish word bumbaze (or bombaze), meaning “to confuse,” similar in both sound and meaning. Given the befuddling qualities of alcohol, it's not too surprising to find that, in the 1800's, bamboozle showed up on college campuses as a slang term for “drunk.”
Far from slinking into obscurity, bamboozle today has left its lowly roots behind and found a secure place in the lexicon of standard English. Its very longevity stands as a reminder that you can't predict or enforce the fate of a word.
Related Quotations
“The best day for people of any age to trick and be tricked is April Fool's Day, when we celebrate being bamboozled by harmless hoaxes. As Mark Twain said, ‘April 1 is the day on which we are reminded what we are on the other 364.’“
—Kathryn Lindskoog, Fakes, Frauds & Other Malarkey (1992)
“Ya been took! Ya been hoodwinked! Bamboozled! Led astray! Run amok!“
—Denzel Washington as Malcolm X in the movie Malcolm X, directed by Spike Lee, American Rhetoric (1992)
“They’re counting on that you all forgot. They think that they can run the okey-doke on you. Bamboozle you.“
—Barack Obama, in a speech at a fundraiser in Atlanta, “Obama: Republicans want to ‘bamboozle’ voters this November“ Ballot Box (blog) reported by Sam Youngman (August 2, 2010)
“I'll bambousle him, I'll befogify his brain.“
—Thomas Chandler Haliburton, The Clockmaker; or The Sayings and Doings of Samuel Slick, of Slickville (1838)
“Oh, you're a hot-air artist, but you can't bamboozle me!“
—Van Zo Post, Diana Ardway (1913)
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
Cite This Source
Examples from the web for bamboozle
  • Don't let him bamboozle you with his phony and expensive ad blitz.
  • He's much more likely to be defensive and bamboozle people with facts, which would be a disaster.
  • And the attempts to bamboozle the markets only rebound since official statements cease to be credible.
  • Either that, or you would be seeking to bamboozle us.
  • But she could have chosen a much more dramatic number if she was seeking merely to bamboozle her readers.
  • And they think about lies and spin to bamboozle and/or frighten us into accepting it.
British Dictionary definitions for bamboozle

bamboozle

/bæmˈbuːzəl/
verb (transitive) (informal)
1.
to cheat; mislead
2.
to confuse
Derived Forms
bamboozler, noun
bamboozlement, noun
Word Origin
C18: of unknown origin
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
Cite This Source
Word Origin and History for bamboozle
v.

1703, originally a slang or cant word, perhaps Scottish from bombaze "perplex," related to bombast, or French embabouiner "to make a fool (literally 'baboon') of." Related: Bamboozled; bamboozling. As a noun from 1703.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Cite This Source
Slang definitions & phrases for bamboozle

bamboozle

verb

To hoax; trick; swindle; flimflam: My worthy opponent thrives by bamboozling the public

[Underworld 1700s+; origin unknown and much disputed; some claim a Romany source]


The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
Cite This Source

Word of the Day

Difficulty index for bamboozle

Few English speakers likely know this word

Word Value for bamboozle

24
28
Scrabble Words With Friends

Quotes with bamboozle