\ 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 : 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 How to pronounce foully (audio) \ 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

Another former UConn standout, Stefanie Dolson, had eight points and 10 rebounds in 22 minutes, but ran into early foul trouble and was on the bench as the Sun pulled away in the second and third quarters. Dom Amore,, "Sun beat Sky, 100-94, as UConn’s Katie Lou Samuelson returns to state as a pro," 31 July 2019 People are urged to avoid water that looks discolored or scummy or has a foul odor. USA TODAY, "Big butter sculpture, sweet guitar, owl released: News from around our 50 states," 24 July 2019 The remains were found after a man reported a foul odor coming from the property where Sparks’ parents’ home sits. Chris Harris,, "Missing Mom of Newborn Twins Was Buried Naked in Shallow Grave and Wrapped in Garbage Bags," 16 July 2019 Dallas police are asking for the public's help in identifying suspects in the murder of a man whose body was discovered in his home after a neighbor reported a foul odor. Loyd Brumfield, Dallas News, "Man found dead in home after neighbor reports unusual odor in Love Field area," 21 June 2019 Authorities were called to a Thai restaurant in Windsor on May 29 regarding a foul odor and a reddish-brown liquid dripping from the ceiling of the restaurant, WFSB-TV reported. Fox News, "Fluids from dead body leads to closure of Connecticut restaurant: report," 11 June 2019 Workers have also deployed advanced imaging technology to trace foul odors in Long Beach, Seal Beach and Huntington Beach to oil tankers along the coast. Tony Barboza,, "Southern California’s most toxic polluters will pay more under air board’s fee hike," 7 June 2019 Dahl, the next batter, followed with a two-run homer down the right-field line, which hooked just inside the foul pole. Bobby Nightengale,, "Luis Castillo allows 6 runs, Cincinnati Reds crushed in loss to Colorado Rockies," 27 July 2019 The Pittsburgh Pirates, the Kansas City Royals and the Los Angeles Dodgers have pledged to push their netting to the foul poles. New York Times, "‘We Needed to Do Something’: White Sox Unveil Extended Protective Netting," 23 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The squad was aggressive all night, with 13 fouls and three yellow cards. Cheryl Wray, al, "Legion FC earns road victory over league’s top team," 10 Aug. 2019 Hey @wojespn what does the market look like for a guy who can contribute 6 hard fouls and 4 missed free throws per game? Akeem Glaspie, Indianapolis Star, "Former Pacers draft pick David Harrison shares joke with NFL star JJ Watt on Twitter," 1 July 2019 In the first half of extra time, Alanna Kennedy received a straight red card for committing a foul and denying a goalscoring opportunity., "Women's World Cup Roundup: Germany Cruise Through to Quarters & Norway Prevail on Penalties," 22 June 2019 Buster Posey hit a liner down the line that was barely foul and then flied out. John Shea,, "Giants lose 9-8 after Bumgarner knocked out by Muncy’s Dodgers," 20 June 2019 On the flip side, NASA’s hitters will want to protect the strike zone, foul off pitches and force the opposing pitcher to raise his pitch count just because the hitter doesn’t look at pitches. Robert Avery, Houston Chronicle, "NASA Major All-Stars preparing for District 14 debut Sunday night," 19 June 2019 That would minimize the chance of committing a foul and maximizing the chance of contesting a shot. Mark Medina, The Mercury News, "Inside Alfonzo McKinnie’s relationship with Jerry Stackhouse," 10 June 2019 Come one, let’s face it — the ball lands foul and spins into fair territory. Steven Wine, The Seattle Times, "Alcantara pitches 2-hitter, Miami beats reeling Mets 3-0," 19 May 2019 Such writings raise the question, why is the c-word so much more taboo than other foul and forbidden words? The Washington Post,, "Let's talk about the c-word -- and why it's so taboo," 2 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Queretaro goalkeeper Gil Alcala was whistled for the penalty kick for fouling a charging Jorge Rojas. Ivan Orozco, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Xolos’ Sanvezzo scores against former team, but Tijuana falls to Queretaro," 13 Aug. 2019 Last month, the White Sox and Nationals both extended their stadium's netting from foul pole to foul pole. Matt Young, Houston Chronicle, "Astros to extend protective netting at Minute Maid Park," 8 Aug. 2019 The Japanese and Korean baseball leagues run it from foul pole to foul pole. Paul Daugherty,, "Doc column: MLB netting issue isn’t a simple one," 5 June 2019 Andre Drummond added 15 points, 18 rebounds and made four straight free throws down the stretch when Lakers coach Luke Walton had players intentionally foul Drummond in an attempt to catch up. Vince Ellis, Detroit Free Press, "Reggie Jackson outduels Lonzo Ball, Detroit Pistons top Lakers 112-106," 26 Mar. 2018 First, Williams rattled in a 3-pointer while being fouled in the last minute and a half and sank the free throw, the latter after first hushing the crowd. Bill Livingston,, "March Madness 2018: How the media (blush) saved Ohio State -- Bill Livingston," 16 Mar. 2018 Gold recovered, brought the ball down and Aurora Clough was fouled in the eight meter area, causing a free position opportunity with 3:10 remaining in OT. Randy Mcroberts,, "Gold upends Blue for title in women’s summer lacrosse league final," 19 July 2019 Brazil sealed victory when Richarlison, who had missed a few matches because of the mumps, converted a penalty kick in the 90th after Everton was fouled. Time, "Brazil Beats Peru to Win Its First Copa América Title Since 2007," 9 July 2019 Brazil sealed victory when Richarlison, who had missed a few matches because of the mumps, converted a penalty kick in the 90th after Everton was fouled. Washington Post, "Brazil beats Peru to win 1st Copa América title since 2007," 8 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb

Some huddled under a metal carport, sharing a foul-smelling bathroom and bathing with outdoor hoses. Los Angeles Times, "Stymied by U.S. asylum policies, many migrants on the border are heading home," 4 Aug. 2019 That love is being tested this summer after record-setting floods broke through temporary barriers and for weeks inundated some of Davenport’s trendiest restaurants and shops with foul-smelling water. Washington Post, "Mississippi River city ponders a wall it has long rejected," 28 July 2019 The metal can unbind from sentiment in low oxygen areas, creating foul-smelling, yellow water, that’s expensive to treat. Mary Kilpatrick,, "EPA announces new program designed to clean up Great Lakes," 19 July 2019 Shortly after the tweets, and a later post defending the harsh scenes at a border detention facility where hundreds of migrant men are being held in sweltering, foul-smelling conditions, Trump left the White House to go golfing at his Virginia club. Calvin Woodward,, "‘You can’t leave fast enough,’ Trump says to progressive Democrats," 14 July 2019 At the base of the mud, Dr. Nielsen observed a buildup of a foul-smelling gas called hydrogen sulfide. New York Times, "Wired Bacteria Form Nature’s Power Grid: ‘We Have an Electric Planet’," 1 July 2019 Cal’s Camryn Rogers wins the Canadian hammer title; foul-prone Oregon alum Jillian Weir fails to make the final., "Shouldn’t USATF find a way to fill the stadium for a national championship? Oregon track & field rundown," 28 July 2019 Kelly misplayed a squibber by Paul DeJong, a ball that started off foul before spinning back into fair territory down the first base line. Nick Piecoro, azcentral, "Merrill Kelly’s miscues help Cardinals down Diamondbacks," 13 July 2019 Notre Dame got its revenge last season, first triumphing over Louisville in a tight, foul-laden contest in South Bend, and later throttling the Cards by 20 points in the 2019 ACC championship game. Danielle Lerner, The Courier-Journal, "Louisville women's basketball to renew rivalry with Notre Dame at Yum Center in 2019-20," 24 June 2019

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

14 Aug 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 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

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

Comments on foul

What made you want to look up foul? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


of or relating to the heavens

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