\ ˈfau̇(-ə)l How to pronounce foul (audio) \

Definition of foul

 (Entry 1 of 4)

1a : offensive to the senses : loathsome the foul odor of rotten eggs
b : filled or covered with offensive matter foul bins of filth
2 : being odorous and impure : polluted foul air
3a : morally or spiritually odious : detestable a foul crime
b : notably unpleasant or distressing : wretched, horrid in a foul mood
4 : obscene, abusive foul language
5a : being wet and stormy foul weather
b : obstructive to navigation a foul tide
6a : treacherous, dishonorable fair means or foul
b : constituting an infringement (see infringe sense 1) of rules in a game or sport a foul blow in boxing
7 : being outside the foul lines in baseball … a foul fly that was snagged by a fan in the stands.— E. M. Swift
8 : containing marked-up corrections a foul manuscript foul proofs
9 : full of dirt or mud
10 : encrusted, clogged, or choked with a foreign substance the chimney was foul and smoked badly
11 : placed in a situation that impedes physical movement : entangled a foul fishing line
12 dialectal British : homely, ugly



Definition of foul (Entry 2 of 4)

1a : an infringement of the rules in a game or sport
3 : an entanglement or collision especially in angling or sailing
4 archaic : something foul


fouled; fouling; fouls

Definition of foul (Entry 3 of 4)

transitive verb

1 : to make foul: such as
a : to make dirty : pollute
b : to tangle or come into collision with
c : to encrust with a foreign substance a ship's bottom fouled with barnacles
3 : to commit a foul against
4 : to hit (a baseball) foul

intransitive verb

1 : to commit a violation of the rules in a sport or game
2 : to hit a foul ball
3 : to become or be foul: such as
b : to become encrusted, clogged, or choked with a foreign substance
c : to become entangled or come into collision



Definition of foul (Entry 4 of 4)

: in a foul manner : so as to be foul

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Other Words from foul


foully \ ˈfau̇(l)-​lē How to pronounce foully (audio) \ adverb
foulness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for foul

Synonyms: Adjective

Synonyms: Verb

Antonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Verb

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Choose the Right Synonym for foul


dirty, filthy, foul, nasty, squalid mean conspicuously unclean or impure. dirty emphasizes the presence of dirt more than an emotional reaction to it. a dirty littered street filthy carries a strong suggestion of offensiveness and typically of gradually accumulated dirt that begrimes and besmears. a stained greasy floor, utterly filthy foul implies extreme offensiveness and an accumulation of what is rotten or stinking. a foul-smelling open sewer nasty applies to what is actually foul or is repugnant to one expecting freshness, cleanliness, or sweetness. it's a nasty job to clean up after a sick cat In practice, nasty is often weakened to the point of being no more than a synonym of unpleasant or disagreeable. had a nasty fall his answer gave her a nasty shock squalid adds to the idea of dirtiness and filth that of slovenly neglect. squalid slums All these terms are also applicable to moral uncleanness or baseness or obscenity. dirty then stresses meanness or despicableness don't ask me to do your dirty work , while filthy and foul describe disgusting obscenity or loathsome behavior filthy street language a foul story of lust and greed , and nasty implies a peculiarly offensive unpleasantness. a stand-up comedian known for nasty humor Distinctively, squalid implies sordidness as well as baseness and dirtiness. engaged in a series of squalid affairs

Examples of foul in a Sentence

Adjective the foul odor of rotten eggs The medicine left a foul taste in my mouth. The weather has been foul all week. Noun He hit several fouls in a row. Verb pollutants that foul the air She fouled on her first long jump attempt. He was fouled as he attempted the shot. He kept fouling pitches into the stands.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Fans may purchase a cutout in the section on the first-base side for $149, and outfielder Stephen Piscotty will provide an autographed photo, to boot - and any foul that strikes a cutout also will earn that fan an autographed ball from Piscotty. Susan Slusser, SFChronicle.com, "Section of fan cutouts at the Coliseum to help Piscotty family’s ALS charity," 11 July 2020 Knicks guard John Starks then missed a pair of free throws and Miller rebounded the ball, drew a whistle and gave the Pacers a two-point lead after making both foul shots with 7.5 seconds left. Mark Medina, USA TODAY, "Why do I love sports? Because Reggie Miller proved the game isn't over until it's over," 4 July 2020 Later that evening, Pete's treating himself to a steak while annoying his fellow restaurant patrons with foul language. Matt Cabral, EW.com, "Perry Mason recap: Paul Drake delivers a new clue with some serious bite," 6 July 2020 Bumgarner gave up three home runs – Ildemaro Vargas hit two, Jon Jay hit the other – and Vargas nearly hit a fourth off Bumgarner but the ball appeared to be just foul. Nick Piecoro, The Arizona Republic, "Arizona Diamondbacks offer no details on absent players David Peralta, Kole Calhoun," 5 July 2020 Deputies first discovered the human remains on June 11 after a family reported a foul odor coming from underneath their home. oregonlive, "Suspect arrested in Salem homicide where human remains were found under duplex," 3 July 2020 In the late 800s, the people may have taken the foul, poisoned reservoirs and the decades of drought as a sign that their rulers had failed in that all-important duty. Kiona N. Smith, Ars Technica, "Mercury and algal blooms poisoned Maya reservoirs at Tikal," 30 June 2020 Little kids and old men chased down foul balls, spectators sat in camping chairs and bleachers, and dogs on leashes found shade to rest in. Beth Bragg, Anchorage Daily News, "Despite short season, Alaska’s boys of summer relish the chance to take the field," 14 June 2020 Players will need to spread out in dugouts and even take positions down the line, into foul territory and away from benches. NBC News, "Playing in a pandemic: Iowa's restarting high school baseball and softball, knowing risks," 13 June 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun But as the league's all-time leading scorer turned over his left shoulder to deliver his famous skyhook, Laimbeer was whistled for a foul after appearing to gently bump the Lakers' center with 14 seconds remaining. Marlowe Alter, Detroit Free Press, "Isiah Thomas produced historic game. Then Detroit Pistons were robbed of first NBA title," 19 June 2020 Phoenix might handle the whistle differently without the crowd booing when a foul is called. Duane Rankin, azcentral, "Phoenix Suns in Orlando: Can Phoenix raise defensive level?," 11 June 2020 Artest delivers a hard foul on Ben Wallace, who retaliates with a shove that sends Artest all the way to media row. Ryan Ford, Detroit Free Press, "The most stunning Michigan sports endings this century from all corners," 1 June 2020 At the time, the Warriors were down by two points, then four with the free throws that resulted from Lucas' final foul. Jr Radcliffe, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "The Next Ten: Marquette dismisses Kansas to reach the 1974 NCAA championship game," 29 May 2020 The Eagles also propsed a rule to make permanent the expansion of automatic replay reviews to include scoring plays and turnovers negated by a foul and any successful or unsuccessful try attempt. Dan Labbe, cleveland, "NFL considering 4th-and-15 onside kick proposal among other rule changes," 21 May 2020 To keep your home clean and reduce any foul smells, ferrets can be trained to use a litter box, just like pet cats. Texas A&m University, Houston Chronicle, "PET TALK: Down to business: Ferrets as pets," 16 May 2020 Despite shooting just one free throw in the first half — on a Dennis Rodman technical foul — and not shooting a free throw resulting from a Bulls foul until 1:32 left in the third quarter. Matthew Glenesk, Indianapolis Star, "How Pacers pushed Michael Jordan, Bulls to the brink in 1998: 'They saw the fear in Chicago's eyes.'," 15 May 2020 Dear Taxpayer,’’ and displayed Bush’s name prominently, leading Democrats to cry foul that a government agency was stepping into politicking. Joe Davidson, BostonGlobe.com, "Three prominent lawyers say president’s name shouldn’t be on stimulus checks," 29 Apr. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb No one wants to see all $500 billion lost, but losing a little taxpayer money on these programs is the equivalent of a basketball player fouling a time or two during a game — taking a few risks to win the game. Washington Post, "U.S. taxpayers might lose money helping companies. Economists say it’s a good thing.," 21 May 2020 Miller grabs the rebound and is fouled with 7.5 seconds left. Dana Hunsinger Benbow, Indianapolis Star, "Inside Madison Square Garden when Reggie Miller's 8 points in 8.9 seconds echoed round the world," 2 May 2020 Drexler made both foul shots, then was fouled again with 16.4 seconds to play. oregonlive, "Trail Blazers classics: Portland beats San Antonio Spurs to advance to 1990 Western Conference finals for 2nd time in franchise history," 28 Apr. 2020 While trading blows, DelBello knocked down a three with 5:05 left in the game and was fouled. Alex Harrison, Cincinnati.com, "Cincinnati Country Day stopped in regional final by powerhouse Fort Loramie," 8 Mar. 2020 First Michaela hit a driving layup and was fouled, with the free throw opening a 24-20 lead. cleveland, "Cornerstone Christian outlasts Dalton 35-29 in Div. IV girls basketball regional semifinal," 6 Mar. 2020 Then after replay reversed what appeared to be a critical turnover on Winston, the senior guard drove and got fouled by Wheeler with 53.1 seconds to play. Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan State basketball stuns Penn State, 79-71; now tied atop Big Ten," 4 Mar. 2020 Pritzl grabbed the rebound and was fouled with 11.7 seconds left. Jeff Potrykus, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Wisconsin 71, Minnesota 69: Brad Davison gets some payback as Badgers extend win streak," 1 Mar. 2020 Flower Mound had a chance to tie the game when Mills was fouled with 8.8 seconds left and Grand Prairie holding a 68-66 lead, but Mills missed his second attempt. Dallas News, "UIL boys basketball: Clutch defense helps Grand Prairie secure area round win over Flower Mound," 29 Feb. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb Mail time: The Ohio Democratic Party is crying foul over a recent mailer from The Faith & Freedom Coalition, the conservative group founded by Ralph Reed. cleveland, "Controlling board to vote on CARES money for Ohio schools: Capitol Letter," 13 July 2020 But the price hike was such a cable-like move that many consumers cried foul. Jefferson Graham, USA TODAY, "Cutting the cord: Sling TV is the cheapest, best bargain in TV streaming," 4 July 2020 But critics of America's largest financial firns are crying foul and expressing worries that banks -- which are in much better shape now than 2008 partly because of tougher rules -- could be headed for another crisis. Paul R. La Monica, CNN, "A key bank rule written in the wake of the financial crisis just got rolled back," 25 June 2020 But the opposition cried foul, saying that Tipp-Ex correction fluid had been used to alter results from several polling stations, and that others were faked or duplicated. Ryan Lenora Brown, The Christian Science Monitor, "Protect the vote, or the voter? In African elections, no easy choice.," 23 June 2020 But critics have been crying foul about Darlie for decades. Chauncey Alcorn Cnn Business, CNN, "Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben are going away. Are these mascots next?," 19 June 2020 But folks are still calling foul on the thread and the song’s misogynist undertones. Taiia Smart Young, Essence, "J. Cole’s ‘Snow On Tha Bluff’ Has Black Twitter Squaring Up With Their Favorite Rapper," 17 June 2020 Anyone can call foul, and all of them are empowered with massive new sources of rich data and predictive analytics. Matt Beane, Wired, "To Adapt to Tech, We're Heading Into the Shadows," 8 June 2020 Officials reported that troublemakers in a passing car sprayed the protesters with a foul-smelling liquid that might have been urine. Grant Schulte, BostonGlobe.com, "George Floyd protests spread to smaller, mostly white towns," 7 June 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'foul.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of foul


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 3


13th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for foul

Adjective and Noun

Middle English, from Old English fūl; akin to Old High German fūl rotten, Latin pus pus, putēre to stink, Greek pyon pus

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Time Traveler for foul

Time Traveler

The first known use of foul was before the 12th century

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Statistics for foul

Last Updated

28 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Foul.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/foul. Accessed 4 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for foul

How to pronounce foul (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of foul

 (Entry 1 of 3)

: very unpleasant to taste or smell
: morally bad : very evil
: very bad or unpleasant



English Language Learners Definition of foul (Entry 2 of 3)

sports : an action that is against the rules and for which a player is given a penalty
baseball : a batted ball that lands outside the foul lines : a foul ball



English Language Learners Definition of foul (Entry 3 of 3)

: to make (a substance, place, etc.) dirty
: to commit a foul
: to commit a foul against (another player)
\ ˈfau̇l How to pronounce foul (audio) \
fouler; foulest

Kids Definition of foul

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 : disgusting in looks, taste, or smell In the warm months, a foul odor rose …— Kate DiCamillo, The Tale of Despereaux
2 : full of or covered with something that pollutes foul air
3 : being vulgar or insulting foul language
4 : being wet and stormy foul weather
5 : very unfair She would even use foul methods to get what she wanted.
6 : very unpleasant or bad a foul mood
7 : breaking a rule in a game or sport The boxer was warned for using a foul punch.
8 : being outside the foul lines He hit a foul ball.



Kids Definition of foul (Entry 2 of 3)

1 : a ball in baseball that is batted outside the foul lines
2 : an act of breaking the rules in a game or sport


fouled; fouling

Kids Definition of foul (Entry 3 of 3)

1 : to make or become foul or filthy foul the air foul a stream
2 : to make a foul in a game

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More from Merriam-Webster on foul

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for foul

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with foul

Spanish Central: Translation of foul

Nglish: Translation of foul for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of foul for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about foul

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