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Fool Me Once Shame on You, Fool Me Twice Shame on Me

cartoon of man being pranked by friends.

Fool Me Once Shame on You Definition

Fool me once shame on you,  fool me twice.. This proverb essentially means to learn from your mistakes. If you don’t, you have only yourself to blame.


If someone were to pull a trick on you, it would be shameful on them for being a nuisance. But if you were to fall for the same trick a second time, that would be a failure of critical thinking on your part.

Fool Me Once Shame on You Examples

  • My young son started hiding my phone whenever I wasn’t looking. So I started leaving an old defunct phone out for him to steal while mine was safe. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.
  • When Clyde and I played chess he would always check my king with his bishop right away. Now I make sure that’s the first piece I take from him. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice..


There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.

George W. Bush

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times, shame on both of us.

Stephen King

Fool Me Once Shame on You Origin

Spiritual Origin

He that decieves me once, it’s his fault; but if twice, it’s my fault :’ this second time therefore could not but be the only fault of the King and Councel.

The Court and Character of King James, Anthony Weldon, 1650

A possible origin of this proverb comes from The Court and Character of King James by the courtier and politician Anthony Weldon. This scandalous tell all work describes the ruling of King James VI and I. Some historians believe the king discovering this work is what lead to Weldon’s dismissal from the royal court.

Literary Origin

We write also in the interests of the general public, who, dear, confiding souls, believe whatever the Rink people tell them. but who also hold to the faith of an old French friend of ours, who said, “If a man he fool me once he’s d–d fool; if he fool me twice I’m d–d fool.”

Daily Ohio Statesman, January 25, 1869

The earliest record of our proverb in a comparable form to it’s use today is in the Daily Ohio Statesman newspaper.

The article appears to be about an ice rink being advertised all around town. Only upon opening the patrons discover thin melting ice interrupted every few feet by muddy bumps and holes. But were already charged admission at no refund.