Tinfoil (and derivatives)


Senior Member
Spanish from Spain
Main term: tinfoil
Derivatives: tinfoily, tinfoiler, tinfoil hat, tinfoilhattery ...
Colloquial funny term used in all imaginable forms, that is: noun, adjective, adverb and even verb.

Your definition or explanation:
Its origin seems to be a self-made tinfoil hat some paranoid people put on their heads to prevent that their minds could be telepathically read or controlled by aliens or whoever with this supernatural power. However, its meaning somehow has evolved into scorning people that tend to believe in any kind of conspiracy theories, to ridicule these theories themselves, and/or even just to deride argumentations with hardly believable conclusions not enough well grounded on facts or which distort them conveniently for the sake of a preconceived odd conclusion.

The best explanation is here.

The Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline was the initial tinfoil explanation for the US invasion of Afghanistan — and for Afghanistan only. (The "attacks" on 9/11 were faked to give this nefarious scheme cover.)
"You have to sign this petition! It's to get Congress to require all envelopes to be self-adhesive. When you lick an envelope flap, the Post Office runs it through a scanner that takes a DNA sample. Then they match that up with your name based on the return address. Homeland Security claims to be keeping the information to know how best to protect Americans from a gene-based terrorist attack, but if the wrong people came into power, they could use it for eugenics and put everyone with a certain chromosome combination into concentration camps! So will you sign the petition?"

"Um...I don't know, dude. Sounds a little tinfoily to me."
There was a simpler explanation buy you preferred to tinfoil it all up.

One or more places you have seen the term:
http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=tinfoil hat

Have you looked for this term or meaning in dictionaries, and not found it? Yes __:tick:__ No ___

Excuse my English, please.
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  • Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I think that the "Main term:" of this post should be "tin-foil hat" rather than "tinfoil" as the meaning of the words you're suggesting are all descended directly from that specific phrase even though some of them drop the "hat".


    Senior Member
    Spanish from Spain
    Hello Myridon.

    Point taken. I agree that "tin-foil hat" would lead the logical rank organization of the term family from the semantic evolution point of view. In this regard it's clearly the main term.

    However, I wouldn't be that sure from the practical point of view of its convenience for a dictionary entry as a hardly explainable synonym of conspiranoia (conspiracy + paranoia). I mean, I guess "tin-foil hat" would easily lead the reader to the visualization of that particular headgear —its direct meaning— and would likely suggest this related sense here in discussion.

    I remember having come across in other English spoken forums, this sense of "tinfoil" several times before I could fully understand what that was about; I guessed something like not solid, weak. It was not until someone posted the funny picture I linked in the opening post when I was able to make the connection with this matter of the conspiracy theories. Probably "tinfoil hat" would have saved me some trouble and time. At least for me, it would have been more useful that dictionaries had tinfoil alone, because it is then when it asks for this necessary clarification, reason by which I labelled it as main term.

    Perhaps the best solution for this is to avoid main term and derivatives and use just term and related terminology or something of the sort.


    USA - English
    Tinfoil was a very common term for aluminum foil (aluminum wrap) back in the mid-20th century. I remember using the word tinfoil in everyday language as a child (U.S. English). We would use tinfoil for cooking as well as craft projects (it makes wonderful crowns for dolls!). I still hear older people use it to describe aluminum foil. I agree that it needs to be paired as "tin-foil hat," as the main term, when used to describe deluded/paranoid individuals. The word tinfoil by itself is more correctly used for the material itself.


    USA - English
    I agree that the main term should be "tin-foil hat" when used to describe the deluded/paranoid individuals who would wear such an item.

    The word tinfoil by itself was commonly used in the mid-20th century (American English) to describe what we now call aluminum foil or aluminum wrap. As far as I know, they're both interchangeable. I still hear older people, including members of my family, who say tinfoil rather than aluminum foil. Since this is a common kitchen staple, it's necessary to be very clear about the specific use of tinfoil with the word hat, when used to describe people.

    I haven't researched other uses of tinfoil in the media, so it could be used in other ways as well.