From Academic Kids

A blunder is a spectacularly bad decision or action, a mistake or error with detrimental consequences to the party that makes it. It is typically attibutable to faulty perception: the result of not reading signs, or misinterpreting available information. Naturally many sensible decisions, which even in retrospect were carefully taken, may also prove disastrous mistakes.

The term blunder is often used to refer to military, diplomatic, political, social or business decisions. The word comes from the Old Norse blundra "shut one's eyes" in the oldest sense in Middle English, "to stumble around blindly" all from a presumed an Indo-European base *bhlendh- that also gave us "blind." This modern sense is dated from 1711.

Examples of actions famously considered to be blunders include: the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Maginot Line, and The Tea Act of 1773 (and related British policy decisions toward the American Colonies). However, there is often considerable debate as to whether a decision leading to failure is truly a "blunder" or merely a reasonable course of action based on the available knowledge at the time. Hindsight is 20/20.

A less consequential blunder is a faux pas, or a blooper.


In science, plain mistakes are in a sense unavoidable. Some blunders may turn out to have positive consequences. Einstein called his introduction of the so-called cosmological constant the "biggest blunder" of his life, and later abandoned the idea. His comment was because he introduced it to maintain a static universe, not long before the observational evidence turned in favour of expansion. Nowadays this constant is needed, to explain the increasing rate of the expanding universe.


In chess, a blunder is a very bad move, often given the '?' or even '??' sign (see chess punctuation). But what counts as a blunder also depends on the player, since a lesser move for a club player may be called a blunder if a Grandmaster plays it. In go, there is a slightly more nuanced Japanese language term poka, meaning an unworthy slip by a top-level player. Fujisawa Hideyuki, in terms of pure talent one of the greatest go players, was famous for poka.

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