I’m working on translation of an American novel, dating back to the late 19th - early 20th centuries, and the main character came from a local little Vermont town.

The author describes him as “old dizzard” (“… the old dizzard had been for years the local butt”).

  • I can’t find out the meaning of “dizzard” by myself, so would you please help me?

  • Could it be a sort of a dialect (because I’ve already come across dialectical quotes within this novel)?

  • 1
    The definition of “dizzard” is present in all main dictionaries.
    – user 66974
    Feb 15 at 21:50
  • 11
    The word dizzard is not mentioned in Merriam-Webster's Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary (2003) or in The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, fifth edition (2010)—the two main hard-copy dictionaries that people in the United States are likeliest to own. I don't think it's unreasonable, under the circumstances, to ask about its meaning at this site.
    – Sven Yargs
    Feb 15 at 23:35
  • 5
    it isn't in my oxford compact dictionary either (it is compact at only 1212 pages)
    – WendyG
    Feb 16 at 10:51

3 Answers 3


From Robert Nares, James Halliwell & Thomas Wright, A Glossary or, Collection of Words, Phrases, Names, and Allusions to Customs, Proverbs, Etc., Which Have Been Thought to Require Illustration (1859):

A DIZARD, DIZZARD, or DISARD. A blockhead, or fool. Probably from the same Saxon etymology as dizzy, dysi. Some have said, from disard, Fr. for a prater, or babbling fellow ; but no such word was ever used in French. Their word is diseur ; nor does the English word mean so much a prater, as a downright dunce, or fool. Thus Cotgrave renders it, not by diseur, or any such word, but by lourdaut.

He that cannot personate the wise man well amongst wisards, let him learn to play the fool well amongst dizzards. G. Chapm., Masque of the Middle Temple, C1.

What a revengeful dizard is this! Lingua, O. P1, v, 165.

Whereat the sergeant wroth, said, Dizzard, calfe, / Thou woud'st if thou hadst wit or sense to see. Harringt., Ep., 2, 9.

{In the old English Homer by Art. Hall (1581), p. 10, which was translated from the French, we have:}

You hereaulter high, come on, quoth he, no daunger dread at all, / For by your disarde king, not you, their wrong on me doth fall.

{The dizard was properly the vice, or fool, in a play ; the jester. This would seem to justify the Fr. derivation.}

[Latin quotation omitted] A dizzard or common vice and jester, counterfetting the gestures of any man, and moving his body as him list. Nomenclator.

  • 2
    This is just wonderful!
    – tchrist
    Feb 15 at 22:23
  • 2
    I had suspected that "dizzard" was related to the modern "ditzy"; though the etymology of "ditzy" is also uncertain, some etymologists have suggested that it also comes from "dizzy," in which case the two would seem to be connected etymologically.
    – alphabet
    Feb 15 at 23:20
  • I really like the coupling with wizard in the cite.
    – Yorik
    Feb 16 at 17:04

You'll need a bigger dictionary. :) OED says a dizzard is:

  1. = disour n.; a jester, a ‘fool’. 2. A foolish fellow, idiot, blockhead.

The spelling can vary. Here are two of their citations:

  • 1817 I. D'Israeli Curiosities of Lit. 1st Ser. III. 352
    One may be as great a dizzard in resolving a problem as in restoring a reading.
  • 1886 M. K. Macmillan Dagonet the Jester ii. 100
    They flattered the wantonness of young lords and old wealthy disards.

For its etymology, they give:

Etymology: First found c1520. Perhaps a modification of earlier disour n., by assimilation to words in -ard suffix. See the intermediate forms in -er , -are , -ar in sense 1. In later use, esp. in sense 2, apparently associated with dizzy adj.


The Free Dictionary defines "dizzard" as:

(obsolete) a dunce, an idiot

Given the age of the book, the use of an "obsolete" term is hardly surprising.

  • 2
    If you think the late 19th and early 20th centuries makes something liable to be "obsolete", then you need to live a little bit. :)
    – tchrist
    Feb 15 at 21:45
  • 3
    You don't understand, @tchrist. It's not that the book is from the late 19th or early 20th century that makes it "obsolete". It's that it's a book. :-) Feb 16 at 7:52

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