Definition of imbecile in US English:



  • A stupid person.

    • ‘Watching the sly but brilliant machinations of the programme - makers as they assembled their castaways, I was consumed with fury that these imbeciles were going to have the privilege of living on my island without appreciating it.’
    • ‘Have we become a nation of obese imbeciles too sated with our diet of consumerism, television and self-indulgence to care who is pulling the strings at the top?’
    • ‘What we resent is the deplorable, but democratic, success of junk culture and junk food, and of a political system which seems to be run by corrupt imbeciles.’
    • ‘How am I ever going to learn to talk if I'm surrounded by imbeciles?’
    • ‘Or are you really raising a bunch of imbeciles in your house?’
    • ‘The majority of new staff don't usually stay on for longer than a month, due to the fact that the place is run by an intolerable bunch of more-money-than-common-decency morons and imbeciles.’
    • ‘No matter what you call the mentally deficient, that term will come to be an insult when applied to people of ordinary intellectual capacity, and not long after it will be seen as an insult to the true idiots, imbeciles, and so forth.’
    • ‘I don't think I'd be able to lose sleep over you pathetic imbeciles if I tried.’
    • ‘Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it’
    • ‘In the Eighteenth Century, imbeciles but not idiots could be executed for capital offenses.’
    • ‘Labelled aments (literally ‘without mind’), idiots or imbeciles, they were dealt with in the same way as those who had lost their reason, by incarceration in the new nineteenth-century lunatic asylums.’
    • ‘Five hundred years ago, the Law did not recognise the right of a female to inherit, and, except in the case of some Arab and Eastern cultures, attributed to women the same rights as that of children and imbeciles.’
    • ‘Such people, said the out-of-sight narrator, were known variously as idiots, imbeciles or the feeble-minded, and lumped in together with the genuinely intellectually handicapped.’
    • ‘He even goes as far as to proclaim that we are foolish, imbeciles, insane and lunatics, if that what his term ‘idiocy’ translates as.’
    • ‘Try ordering your chicken fingers now, imbeciles!’
    • ‘I find it extraordinary that our country is seemingly run by imbeciles (assuming I'm not breaking any laws by expressing this point of view).’
    • ‘The 1901 census revealed that more than 13,000 people were living in asylums, officially classed as lunatics or imbeciles.’
    • ‘I can hardly believe I share a country with these imbeciles.’
    • ‘We're doing this because bloggers provide a waste to the internet, an amassing of imbeciles who think they deserve to be heard, and think people actually care.’
    • ‘The people who have been telling you about all the rights you have are simply exercising one of theirs - the right to be imbeciles.’
    fool, idiot, cretin, moron, dolt, halfwit, ass, dunce, dullard, simpleton, nincompoop, blockhead, ignoramus, clod
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  • attributive Stupid; idiotic.

    ‘try not to make imbecile remarks’
    • ‘The genius (such as it is) resides in the system, not in a string of Ubermensch at the top gazing in horror at the imbecile masses.’
    • ‘Nevertheless, for the dissenters, the Eighteenth Century understanding of the Eighth Amendment - and the ancient idiot / imbecile distinction - pretty much settled the case.’
    • ‘So, forward this to that imbecile Johnson and tell him to let go of drugs and start listening to the music he reviews instead of just hearing it.’
    • ‘That is all you need to know about the imbecile plot.’
    • ‘Why not harness people's imbecile sense of patriotism for something useful?’
    • ‘Between historical pessimism and imbecile revolution, there is a stretch of arid territory where the cartoonist retires to.’
    • ‘Usually I was so depressed on that day that I could find it in myself to be sarcastic, which meant it wasn't worth the dealing with the imbecile morons that attended Tucker High.’
    • ‘Frustrated, and as always, completely unable to handle my own imperfections, I settled in with my mother's aged copy of Mastering The Art of French Cooking, only to learn that it is not me, but my imbecile American eggs at fault.’
    • ‘And what kind of a moronic imbecile search engine would send them my blog as a result?’
    • ‘Yeah, Margot was an annoyance, a jealousy inducing pain, but she was way more appealing as a roomie than that imbecile counsellor.’
    • ‘Rules and regulations take a backseat during this fortnight of imbecile fanaticism.’
    • ‘He was surrounded by his imbecile friends and his girlfriend-of-the-day, Chloe, all of them just gossiping like the idiots they are.’
    • ‘An imbecile habit has risen in modern controversy of saying that such and such a creed can be held in one age but cannot be held in another.’
    stupid, foolish, idiotic, silly, doltish, half-witted, witless, dull, brainless, mindless, unintelligent, unwise
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Mid 16th century (as an adjective in the sense ‘physically weak’): via French from Latin imbecillus, literally ‘without a supporting staff’, from in- (expressing negation) + baculum ‘stick, staff’. The current sense dates from the early 19th century.