foil

1 of 5

verb (1)

foiled; foiling; foils

transitive verb

1
a
: to prevent from attaining an end : defeat
always able to foil her enemies
Her accident foiled her from becoming a dancer.
b
: to bring to naught : thwart
foiled the plot
Police foiled an attempted robbery.
2
obsolete : trample

foil

2 of 5

noun (1)

1
: very thin sheet metal
aluminum foil
2
: a thin piece of material (such as metal) put under an inferior or paste stone to add color or brilliance
3
: someone or something that serves as a contrast to another
acted as a foil for a comedian
4
a
: an indentation between cusps in Gothic tracery
b
: one of several arcs that enclose a complex figure
5

foil

3 of 5

verb (2)

foiled; foiling; foils

transitive verb

1
: to back or cover with foil
2
: to enhance by contrast

foil

4 of 5

noun (2)

1
: a light fencing sword having a usually circular guard and a flexible blade of rectangular section tapering to a blunted point compare épée, saber
2
: the art or sport of fencing with the foil
often used in plural

foil

5 of 5

noun (3)

1
archaic : defeat
2
archaic : the track or trail of an animal
Choose the Right Synonym for foil

frustrate, thwart, foil, baffle, balk mean to check or defeat another's plan or block achievement of a goal.

frustrate implies making vain or ineffectual all efforts however vigorous or persistent.

frustrated attempts at government reform

thwart suggests frustration or checking by crossing or opposing.

the army thwarted his attempt at a coup

foil implies checking or defeating so as to discourage further effort.

foiled by her parents, he stopped trying to see her

baffle implies frustration by confusing or puzzling.

baffled by the maze of rules and regulations

balk suggests the interposing of obstacles or hindrances.

officials felt that legal restrictions had balked their efforts to control crime

Word History

Etymology

Verb (1)

Middle English foilen "to trample, tread upon, mortify (the flesh), oppress," alteration of fullen "to full (cloth), trample down, oppress," perhaps by analogy with loanwords from French with palatal l that result in variants with -oi- and -u-, as coilen, cullen "to select for quality, pick out, cull entry 1" — more at full entry 5

Noun (1)

Middle English, leaf, from Anglo-French fuille, foille (from Latin folia, plural of folium) & fuil, from Latin folium — more at blade

Noun (2)

origin unknown

Noun (3)

derivative of foil entry 1

First Known Use

Verb (1)

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Noun (1)

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb (2)

1611, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun (2)

1594, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun (3)

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of foil was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near foil

Cite this Entry

“Foil.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/foil. Accessed 8 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition

foil

1 of 3 verb
: to prevent from achieving a goal : defeat
foil a plot

foil

2 of 3 noun
1
: a very thin sheet of metal
tin or aluminum foil
2
: one that serves as a contrast to another
acted as a foil for the comedian

foil

3 of 3 noun
: a fencing weapon having a light flexible blade with a blunt point

Medical Definition

foil

noun
: very thin sheet metal (as of gold or platinum) used especially in filling teeth

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