\ 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
2 : foul ball
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
a : decompose, rot
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

Other Words from foul


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

Synonyms & Antonyms for foul

Synonyms: Adjective

Synonyms: Verb

Antonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Verb

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Drummond can also handle extended minutes in case of foul trouble with the starters, which serves as another feather in his cap, and gives Chicago the luxury of having a player at their disposal who can be relied on to absorb more court time. Morten Jensen, Forbes, 25 July 2022 Egbo had 13 points and six rebounds in 16 minutes while dealing with foul trouble. Wilson Moore, The Indianapolis Star, 18 July 2022 Both teams are struggling with turnovers and foul trouble early. Matt Eppers, USA TODAY, 17 June 2022 And at the same time, also creating foul trouble for the other team. Ira Winderman, Sun Sentinel, 15 June 2022 With Kevon Looney in foul trouble, Robert Williams should capitalize on the glass. Nicole Yang,, 14 June 2022 An aggressive Jackson opens up UConn’s offense and leads to opposing defenders in foul trouble or leaves his teammates open. Shreyas Laddha, Hartford Courant, 9 June 2022 Udoka has preferred to keep his rotations fairly predictable, particularly in the playoffs, rarely reaching down the Celtics’ bench even in the case of foul trouble. New York Times, 2 June 2022 Jayson Tatum added 23 points for the Celtics despite foul trouble. Ben Steele, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 15 May 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The defensive player who commits the foul will be assessed a common personal foul. Duane Rankin, The Arizona Republic, 13 July 2022 With 4:52 to play in the opening period, Ivey landed on the foot of Wizards forward Isaiah Todd, who was called for a flagrant-1 foul, during a 3-point attempt. Omari Sankofa Ii, Detroit Free Press, 10 July 2022 In the 38th minute, Josecarlos Van Rankin appeared to commit a clear foul on the Sounders in the box, but the video assistant referee (VAR) opted not to call a penalty. oregonlive, 9 July 2022 The Mavericks didn’t have to see as much of Draymond Green, who picked up his fifth foul with 6:01 left in the third, then returned with 6:33 left before fouling out with 2:25 to go. Janie Mccauley,, 21 May 2022 After the Suns Jae Crowder picked up his fifth foul, Kempton exploded. Bill Goodykoontz, The Arizona Republic, 27 Apr. 2022 In Duke's second game against Louisville, Allen exchanged elbows while scuffling for the ball and was later ejected for yelling at a referee after being called for his fifth foul. Mike Hart, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 15 Apr. 2022 The game started with some excitement as Oklahoma first baseman Blake Robertson flipped over the Notre Dame dugout rail while catching Cole’s pop foul on the first pitch of the game. Eric Olson, Chicago Tribune, 19 June 2022 Marcus Smart was whistled for a technical foul then an offensive foul in a one-second span early in the fourth. Janie Mccauley, Hartford Courant, 14 June 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Trout mitigated that weakness the following season, learning to lay off, foul off or square up more high fastballs. Mike Digiovanna, Los Angeles Times, 13 July 2022 Then Boston had to foul and fouled Arlington’s Pat Connaughton — a free throw machine. Globe Staff,, 11 May 2022 That pulled Benet within 44-39, but the Redwings were out of timeouts and had to foul. Matt Le Cren,, 3 Mar. 2022 Two minutes later, Perry was up by eight and in full control after getting to the line as Hamilton had to foul to stop the clock as the Pumas played keep away. Richard Obert, The Arizona Republic, 2 Mar. 2022 The same batter facing a hard-throwing right-handed hurler might foul off a different number of pitches vs. a lefty who throws off speed and junk. Marc Bona, cleveland, 10 May 2022 This from Bill James, via the LATimes: Today, a batter can foul off an infinite number of pitches with two strikes, with no penalty. Paul Daugherty, The Enquirer, 8 Mar. 2022 Randle then hit two free throws after DeRozan’s offensive foul to put it away. Brian Mahoney,, 28 Mar. 2022 The Celtics go into the half with a five-point lead because Marcus Smart managed to steal the ball from Giannis Antetokounmpo, who then made the poor decision to foul Smart on a deep half-court heave. Katie Mcinerney,, 15 May 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb Marina Mabrey was involved in two calls against the Mercury, including a flagrant 1 foul from DeShields at 8:27 in the second quarter and a technical foul against Taurasi at 5:54 in the same quarter. Jenna Ortiz, The Arizona Republic, 19 May 2022 Giannis Antetokounmpo is headed to the line after a foul called on Al Horford, and Celtics fans are not happy about it. Katie Mcinerney,, 15 May 2022 The former Oregon Ducks guard Brooks was hit with a flagrant 2 foul and ejected from the game. oregonlive, 5 May 2022 Brooks was assessed a Flagrant 2 foul and ejected from the game. C.j. Holmes, San Francisco Chronicle, 3 May 2022 The Warriors forward was called for a flagrant 2 foul, which is an automatic ejection from the game. Mark Heim |, al, 1 May 2022 He was suspended for one game for a flagrant foul that left Bulls guard Alex Caruso with a broken right wrist. Mike Hart, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 15 Apr. 2022 Ronald Matarrita committed the foul that resulted in the awarding of the penalty kick. Pat Brennan, The Enquirer, 19 Mar. 2022 Then there was the foul called on Iowa's Tony Perkins with 15 seconds left that sent Gilyard to the free-throw line to seal the game. Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY, 17 Mar. 2022 See More

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.

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 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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Time Traveler for foul

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

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Dictionary Entries Near foul



foul anchor

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Statistics for foul

Last Updated

29 Jul 2022

Cite this Entry

“Foul.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for foul


\ 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

More from Merriam-Webster on foul

Nglish: Translation of foul for Spanish Speakers

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


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