Dunce is word used to designate a person as someone incapable of learning. Historically schoolchildren were sometimes compelled to wear a cone hat known as a dunce cap and to sit on 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.
- The infirmity of human intelligence is short sight. In too many cases, the wiseacres are dunces of a sort, who lose sight of the simplicity of things, and stifle and obscure it with formulae and trivialities. It is the small things that one learns from books, not the great ones.
- Wit, who never once
Forgave a brother, shall forgive a dunce.
- Charles Churchill, Epistle to Hogarth (July 1763), l. 25.
- How much a dunce that has been sent to roam
Excels a dunce that has been kept at home!
- William Cowper, in The Progress of Error (1782), Line 415.
- The defects of great men are the consolation of the dunces.
- Isaac D'Israeli, Essay on the Literary Character, Preface p. xxix, and Vol. I, p. 187.
- Of praise a mere glutton, he swallow'd what came,
And the puff of a dunce, he mistook it for fame;
Till his relish grown callous, almost to displease,
Who pepper'd the highest was surest to please.
- Oliver Goldsmith, Retaliation (1774), line 109.
- For there's nothing we read of in torture's inventions,
Like a well-meaning dunce, with the best of intentions.
- James Russell Lowell, A Fable for Critics (1848), line 250.
- The most ignorant are the most conceited. Unless a man knows that there is something more to be known, his inference is, of course, that he knows every thing. Such a man always usurps the throne of universal knowledge, and assumes the right of deciding all possible questions. We all know that a conceited dunce will decide questions extemporaneous which would puzzle a college of philosophers, or a bench of judges. Ignorant and shallow-minded men do not see far enough to see the difficulty.
- Horace Mann, Lectures on Education (1855) Lecture 6.
- Few human creatures would consent to be changed into any of the lower animals for a promise of the fullest allowance of a beast’s pleasures; no intelligent human being would consent to be a fool, no instructed person would be an ignoramus, no person of feeling and conscience would be selfish and base, even though they should be persuaded that the fool, the dunce, or the rascal is better satisfied with his lot than they are with theirs.
- I've had about enough of morons and half wits, dolts, dunces, dullards and dumbbells … and you, you chowder-head yokel, you blithering hayseed — you've had enough of me?
- When a true genius appears in the world you may know him by this sign; that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.