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dunce (n.)

"dullard, dolt, ignoramus," 1570s, from earlier Duns disciple, Duns man (1520s) "follower of John Duns Scotus" (c. 1265-1308), Scottish scholar of philosophy and theology supposed to have been born at Duns in Berwick. His followers, the Scotists, had control of the universities until the Reformation. By 1520s, humanist reaction against medieval theology had singled him out as the type of the hairsplitting scholastic. It became a general term of reproach applied to obstinate or sophistical philosophical opponents by 1520s, then by 1570s it was extended to any dull-witted student. Dunce's cap is attested by 1792 (compare foolscap).

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