1 of 2


: a state of confusion or an error caused by ineptitude, carelessness, or mismanagement
foul-ups in transportation
: a mechanical difficulty

foul up

2 of 2


fouled up; fouling up; fouls up

transitive verb

: to make dirty : contaminate
: to spoil by making mistakes or using poor judgment : confuse
: entangle, block
fouled up communications

intransitive verb

: to cause a foul-up : bungle
it was his fault. He had fouled upPat Frank

Examples of foul-up in a Sentence

Verb tried not to foul up the football play unfortunately, I fouled up and in my e-mail gave everyone the wrong date for the meeting
Recent Examples on the Web
Rather, inflation had arisen from supply chain foul-ups caused by the Covid epidemic, an act of God rendered worse by comic-opera mismanagement under President Donald Trump. Timothy Noah, The New Republic, 30 June 2023 What had seemed like abandonment turned out to be a pet-sitting foul-up, but the owner also needed help with some veterinary issues, said Kris Lindsay, who oversees the recovery center. Jennifer Peltz, ajc, 7 May 2023
For just one of 67 counties to use the wrong one could foul up an entire statewide count. Sun Sentinel Editorial Board, Sun Sentinel, 6 Jan. 2024 See the stunning shot... AIRLINE 'CHAOS' – A flight was canceled after someone fouled up the aircraft amid delays. Fox News Staff, Fox News, 19 Oct. 2023 Indiana opted to foul up three, Dug McDaniel made the first then intentionally missed the second, Thompson grabbing the rebound. Zach Osterman, The Indianapolis Star, 5 Mar. 2023 Bee digestion breaks down the sucrose within nectar into glucose and fructose, which are an excellent food source for microbes like yeast that could foul up the honey stores. Darren Incorvaia, Discover Magazine, 15 Aug. 2021 Those intruders chop down the jungles and foul up the wetlands, as the spirits mount an offensive to drive them off the shorelines. Luke Winkie, The Atlantic, 22 July 2021 But a foul up with super formula license points stole that dream away. Nathan Brown, The Indianapolis Star, 3 May 2021 The foul up with the referees is a bit of surprise given Indianapolis' reputation for being an effective host city for large-scale events —and the importance of this event to the city and its reputation. Alexandria Burris, The Indianapolis Star, 19 Mar. 2021 Then come foul up, goof up, gum up, mess up, muck up, screw up and synonymous unprintables. Richard Lederer, San Diego Union-Tribune, 6 Mar. 2021

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'foul-up.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use


1918, in the meaning defined at sense 2


1880, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of foul-up was in 1880

Dictionary Entries Near foul-up

Cite this Entry

“Foul-up.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
: an instance of fouling up : a state of being fouled up

foul up

2 of 2 verb
: to spoil by bad work or stupidity : botch
fouled up the surprise attack

More from Merriam-Webster on foul-up

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