\ ˈfau̇(-ə)l \

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 : full of dirt or mud
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
6 dialectal British : homely, ugly
7a : 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
8 : containing marked-up corrections a foul manuscript foul proofs
9 : encrusted, clogged, or choked with a foreign substance the chimney was foul and smoked badly
10 : being odorous and impure : polluted foul air
11 : placed in a situation that impedes physical movement : entangled a foul fishing line
12 : being outside the foul lines in baseball … a foul fly that was snagged by a fan in the stands.— E. M. Swift



Definition of foul (Entry 2 of 4)

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


fouled; fouling; fouls

Definition of foul (Entry 3 of 4)

intransitive verb

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

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



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 \ adverb
foulness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for foul

Synonyms: Adjective

bleak, dirty, inclement, nasty, raw, rough, squally, stormy, tempestuous, turbulent

Synonyms: Verb

befoul, begrime, bemire, besmirch, blacken, daub, dirty, distain [archaic], gaum [dialect], grime, mire, muck, muddy, smirch, smudge, soil, stain, sully

Antonyms: Adjective

bright, clear, clement, cloudless, fair, sunny, sunshiny, unclouded

Antonyms: Verb

clean, cleanse

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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


the foul odor of rotten eggs The medicine left a foul taste in my mouth. The weather has been foul all week.


He hit several fouls in a row.


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

The plants don’t emit the foul odor until the bloom, which usually lasts only 24 hours. Ariel Tu, The Seattle Times, "Stinky ‘corpse flower’ expected to bloom in California," 30 July 2018 More likely, though, a wayward tampon will just lead to a build-up of bacteria, which can cause a foul odor. Kara Wahlgren, Seventeen, "6 Reasons It Might Smell Funky Down There," 7 Nov. 2017 Even Andre Iguodala checking into the game midway through the quarter didn’t seem to yield immediate results as the wing was immediately hit with a foul call. Scott Cacciola, New York Times, "Kevin Durant Pulls Warriors Closer to Another N.B.A. Title," 7 June 2018 Stewart was asked about the controversial fourth-quarter foul call, which was reversed by officials and called as a block on James. Peter Hartlaub, San Francisco Chronicle, "Jon Stewart dropped by S.F., but it felt like he’s been here the whole time," 6 June 2018 Green defended against Anthony Davis on an early miss by the Pelicans' all-star forward, and Davis appeared frustrated to not get a foul call. Christopher Dabe,, "Rajon Rondo, Draymond Green have another mixup early in Game 3," 4 May 2018 Now the player with the ball initiating contact to get a foul call has become an NBA epidemic. Nick Canepa,, "Soft NFL would be even softer if kickoff returns got the boot," 21 Apr. 2018 Jrue Holiday reacts after a foul call as the Portland Trail Blazers face the New Orleans Pelicans in Game 2 of the 2018 NBA playoffs first-round matchup at Moda Center in Portland, Oregon on Tuesday, April 17, 2018., "PHOTOS: Portland Trail Blazers vs. New Orleans Pelicans, NBA playoffs 2018 Game 2," 17 Apr. 2018 Gentry was particularly upset by a fourth-quarter foul call on point guard Jrue Holiday that later earned him a technical for arguing. Steve Gardner, USA TODAY, "Pelicans' coach Alvin Gentry fined $15,000, says Anthony Davis 'never gets a call'," 18 Mar. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The Magic committed 29 fouls and had two players foul out. Cliff Brunt, The Seattle Times, "Westbrook’s 7th straight triple-double leads OKC past Magic," 5 Feb. 2019 The Fever were called for 19 fouls, and the Lynx 13. Jordan Guskey, Indianapolis Star, "Indiana Fever fall to 2-18 in loss against Minnesota Lynx," 11 July 2018 Also, too, VAR could have weighed in on the apparent foul that allowed Mexico to win the ball at the start of its first goal sequence. Grant Wahl,, "Germany Finds a Way; Mexico, Belgium Take Big Steps Toward World Cup Knockout Stage," 23 June 2018 Notre Dame Prep’s Ellie Curry won the overtime draw on a foul, but the Eagles pressure defense wouldn’t let the Blazers go to goal. Katherine Dunn,, "No. 1 McDonogh edges No. 2 NDP, 11-10, in OT to extend record girls lacrosse win streak to 195," 1 May 2018 Domantas Sabonis called for a Flagrant 1 on this foul against LeBron James. Scott Patsko,, "Cavaliers vs. Pacers: Winners and losers from Game 2," 19 Apr. 2018 The Spurs took their final lead, 67-66, on an Aldridge bucket-and-foul with 4:44 left in the third. Jeff Mcdonald, San Antonio Express-News, "Spurs land some punches, still fall in Oakland," 17 Apr. 2018 Following the game, Rueck was asked whether his reaction was meant to motivate his team after its slow start, or register his disagreement with officials on Gulich's foul. Andrew Greif,, "Pac-12 reprimands Oregon State's Scott Rueck after officials criticism," 6 Feb. 2018 Grantham’s right leg appeared to buckle on a foul by Geben midway through the second half. charlotteobserver, "Gabe Devoe leads No. 20 Clemson to first-ever win against Notre Dame," 20 Jan. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

After the game had calmed down a bit, Radamel Falcao earned Colombia a great opportunity after being fouled just on the edge of the box., "Colombia 1-2 Japan: Yuya Osako Winner Hands Japanese Shock Victory Over 10 Man Los Cafeteros," 19 June 2018 After being fouled while receiving a pass from LeBron James, Hill made his first free throw, allowing the Cleveland Cavaliers to tie the Golden State Warriors at 107. Scott Horner, Indianapolis Star, "George Hill on miss: 'This is one of the worst feelings ever'," 1 June 2018 Bleeding profusely from a gash over his left eye after being fouled in the first half by the Indiana Pacers' Thaddeus Young, James finished with a band-aid protecting the cut. Bill Livingston,, "Bloodied LeBron James, struggling Cavaliers teammates fall, 121-87, in Game 6 -- Bill Livingston (photos)," 28 Apr. 2018 But during Sunday's game against the Indiana Pacers at home, Gallinari fell on the court after getting fouled. Broderick Turner,, "Clippers' Danilo Gallinari likely done for the season because of hand injury," 4 Apr. 2018 Azlynn Brandenburg scored four quick points and Olivia Davies sank all three free throws after getting fouled on a 3-point attempt, and suddenly Dimond's lead was down to 10 and Wasilla was pressing. Beth Bragg, Anchorage Daily News, "Lynx cap undefeated season by denying 4A three-peat by Wasilla girls," 25 Mar. 2018 Toward the end of the nearly one-man run that would salvage a 89-75 victory for the Spurs on Monday, LaMarcus Aldridge hit the deck after being fouled by Golden State's Jordan Bell. Jeff Mcdonald, San Antonio Express-News, "Aldridge saves Spurs’ bacon again," 20 Mar. 2018 Johnson made two free throws after being fouled by Porter, drove for a layup after rebounding a Porter miss, and answered Porter's dunk with a 3-pointer. Courier Journal, The Courier-Journal, "Johnson leads Western Kentucky to CUSA title game, 57-49," 9 Mar. 2018 After Sibley knocked down two free throws, Rosengarden stole the ball away from Guell and split a pair of free-throw attempts after being fouled with 34.3 seconds left. Andrew Gruman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Sibley, Ninham help Nicolet reach sectional final with win over Plymouth," 9 Mar. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb

After 88 years of soccer players, coaches and fans crying foul, there is finally a second chance for a referee to confirm whether a penalty is indeed a penalty at the World Cup. Christopher Clarey, New York Times, "France Passes First World Cup Test. So Does V.A.R.," 17 June 2018 Mr Maliki and his allies cried foul and said a new electronic-voting system made the poll easier to rig. The Economist, "Burnt votes and an election recount might plunge Iraq into crisis," 14 June 2018 Gab cries foul as Pennsylvania attorney general subpoenas DNS provider Pennsylvania’s attorney general sent a subpoena to Epic, Gab’s new DNS provider. Casey Newton, The Verge, "One easy thing Facebook should do in Myanmar," 10 Nov. 2018 Republicans sued to try to overturn the election, crying foul over alleged vote irregularities in King County. Jim Brunner, The Seattle Times, "Kim Schrier leads Dino Rossi in 8th Congressional District," 6 Nov. 2018 And though fans cried foul, saying ABC nixed the show because of Tim Allen’s conservative politics, the show won’t specifically talk about President Trump. Megan Friedman, Country Living, "The New Season of ‘Last Man Standing’ Won’t Talk About President Trump," 3 Aug. 2018 About 100 of his neighbors are living in tents and makeshift sheds and using foul-smelling improvised toilets in outdoor camps. Fox News, "Damaged buildings, graft haunt Mexico City year after quake," 18 Sep. 2018 Florida’s recount has drawn national attention, with Republicans crying foul and claiming voter fraud and Democrats asking that every vote be counted. Emily Stewart, Vox, "The 2018 midterm races that still aren’t over," 14 Nov. 2018 The Longhorns limit threes, get back in transition well and also don't foul often, meaning the Jayhawks will have to run good half-court offense to get open shots. Jesse Newell, kansascity, "Quick scout: Why a non-senior could have a big night against Texas | The Kansas City Star," 26 Feb. 2018

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 1


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


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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Statistics for foul

Last Updated

13 Feb 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for foul

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

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More Definitions for foul



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 \
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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with foul

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for foul

Spanish Central: Translation of foul

Nglish: Translation of foul for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of foul for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about foul

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