A slang term describing someone who is gullible and easy to take advantage of. A patsy is an easy mark at cards, because he'll never catch on that you've got an extra ace up your sleeve. Hell, a patsy is an easy mark on everything--you can laugh at him, make jokes at his expense, steal from him, and he'll either never catch on, or he'll catch on too late.

A patsy is also someone who can be made to take the blame for something, especially for a crime. When Sam Spade says someone's making a patsy of him, he means someone's doctored a frame-up job on him and intends for him to take the rap while they get off scot-free. It isn't even like you have to be innocent or a sucker to be a patsy--the other members of your gang can make you the patsy for the whole job, either by dropping secret calls to the cops to make you the fall guy or by cutting a deal with the D.A. Lousy squealin' rats.

No one's entirely certain how this term came about. It might be from the Italian word for "fool", pazzo.

sighmoan adds: "Patsy: Harpo Marx's character in the stage production, "Fun In Hi Skule" (possibly also "Horse Feathers", which borrowed the classroom scene)." Yeah, that's another possibility. A constant problem with determining the origins of slang is that there are nearly always multiple sources that a term could have come from. It coulda been "pazzo"; it coulda been Harpo; heck, it coulda been some notoriously gullible Irishman... And it coulda been a combination...

NothingLasts4ever points out: "Pazzo is more crazy than foolish..." Duly noted...

Research: The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition and WordNet 1.6

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