\ 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

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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

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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 Scruggs, who finished with five points on 1-of-5 shooting, spent most of the game in foul trouble and eventually fouled out with just over five minutes left in the game. Adam Baum, The Enquirer, "Xavier stumbles at Georgetown and the Musketeers' NCAA Tournament hopes take a hit," 3 Mar. 2021 Riley struggled in Hoban’s district final victory over North Canton Hoover, missing much of the game because of foul trouble. Joe Magill, cleveland, "Lanae Riley makes up for lost time as Hoban girls basketball ousts Canton McKinley, 63-56; Medina falls to GlenOak, 54-38," 3 Mar. 2021 Rhodes, Carver’s star, was in foul trouble most of the game, limiting her output. Ben Thomas |, al, "Class 6A girls championship: Hazel Green holds off Carver, wins 4th straight title," 3 Mar. 2021 Alyssa Garcia flies out to foul territory in right. James Crepea | The Oregonian/oregonlive, oregonlive, "Rewinding No. 8 Oregon softball’s 3-1 win over No.1 UCLA," 1 Mar. 2021 As the Huskies were running out of big men due to the foul trouble and Josh Carlton’s ankle injury, Hurley was forced to adjust, but the combination of Cole and Bouknight, who scored 24, helped UConn build a 20-point lead and maintain it. Dom Amore,, "Dom Amore: While his mom provides off-the-court fire, R.J. Cole has become UConn men’s steady hand," 28 Feb. 2021 Schakel finished with 17 points despite battling foul trouble most of the afternoon, picking up his third moments into the second half. Mark Zeigler, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Aztecs make it 10 straight wins with sweep of Boise State," 27 Feb. 2021 What has apparently happened with Toobs seems to straddle that fine line, teeter, then pitch over into foul territory. The Washington Post, "Chatological Humor with Gene Weingarten," 20 Oct. 2020 The former Detroit Henry Ford Academy star had 12 points and four rebounds at halftime despite battling foul trouble. Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan State basketball tumble continues in 75-65 loss to Purdue; NCAAs look like a dream," 17 Feb. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun After the Cardinal used their last foul to give, Paopao got the ball but tripped driving to the basket and traveled with 2.5 left. oregonlive, "Oregon women’s basketball erases 15-point deficit, but Stanford closes out 63-61 win," 15 Feb. 2021 And when Jones picked up his third foul with 12:14 remaining, Coleman and junior guard Courtney Ramey were ready to close. Nick Moyle, San Antonio Express-News, "Andrew Jones sets the tone in No. 13 Texas' win over TCU," 13 Feb. 2021 Carr, who had five assists in the first five minutes Monday, picked up his fourth foul with 15:39 remaining. Marcus Fuller, Star Tribune, "Gophers break out of slump, thump Nebraska 79-61 to end three-game losing streak," 8 Feb. 2021 That is when Crawford got his third foul going for a loose ball. Darrell Williams,, "Basketball: Brother Martin's aggressive play on offense, defense catalyst in win over Shaw," 6 Feb. 2021 The Mavs got surprisingly little from their meal ticket, Doncic, in the first half as he was hit with his third foul and a technical late in the second quarter after scoring just seven points. Tim Cowlishaw, Dallas News, "‘Way way way better’: Despite another disappointing loss, Luka Doncic was pleased with the Mavs’ effort vs. Suns," 30 Jan. 2021 In his delayed debut, Okeke got an extended stay on the court after forward Aaron Gordon committed his fourth foul with 10:50 left in the third quarter, putting the rookie in the game with Orlando’s top unit. Mark Inabinett |, al, "See the first NBA baskets of Chuma Okeke, Isaac Okoro," 24 Dec. 2020 Desi Sills got a tough layup to go to begin the second half then picked up his third foul. Arkansas Online, "Hogs beat Abilene Christian without Musselman," 23 Dec. 2020 His foul on Walker — a near-perfect free-throw shooter — near midcourt got Tom Izzo off the bench and barking at his junior leader. Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan State basketball's Tom Izzo decrees after another L: 'My stars gotta play better'," 1 Feb. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The Mount came up short on its next possession and had to foul, but the Knights missed a free throw and Chong Qui sank a 3-pointer at the other end with 5 seconds to play. Staff Report,, "Mount St. Mary’s men’s hoops forces OT but falls to Fairleigh Dickinson for 3rd straight loss," 20 Feb. 2021 The Mount came up short on its next possession and had to foul, but the Knights missed a free throw and Chong Qui sank a 3-pointer at the other end with 5 seconds to play. Baltimore Sun Staff,, "Loyola routs Lehigh; Navy dominates American | STATE BASKETBALL ROUNDUP," 20 Feb. 2021 Kyland Burroughs added 11 as the Warriors hung with MGM for most of the game, but were outrebounded and were forced to foul down the stretch. Ben Thomas |, al, "Saturday area tournament highlights, scores: MGM, Fairhope, Hoover among 7A winners," 14 Feb. 2021 On Golden State’s final possession, Draymond Green — apparently thinking the Spurs intended to foul him — tossed a 50-footer at the rim that clanked harmlessly and aimlessly off the backboard. Jeff Mcdonald, San Antonio Express-News, "The triple take: Spurs 105, Warriors 100," 8 Feb. 2021 Gregg Popovich is one of the few head coaches in the league that generally does not foul when holding a 3-point lead in the final 10 seconds. Rusty Simmons, San Francisco Chronicle, "Warriors' Draymond Green on late-game gaffe: 'smartest dumb play in history'," 8 Feb. 2021 But Johnson isolates, can’t get past Niang, and the Iowa State man doesn’t foul... Andy Larsen, The Salt Lake Tribune, "The Triple Team: Jazz defense is at its very best once again as Jazz blow out Mavericks," 29 Jan. 2021 On each offensive possession, Aurora spread the floor and ran its delay game, eventually forcing Magnificat to foul. cleveland, "Aurora displays winning depth with 51-43 girls basketball triumph over Magnificat," 10 Jan. 2021 Coach Nate Oats signaled for his players to foul, but the Hilltoppers ran out the remaining 10 seconds for the win. Mike Rodak |, al, "Late goaltending call downs Alabama in loss to Western Kentucky," 19 Dec. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb Two questions into his postgame videoconference, Kawhi Leonard walked out after addressing the offensive foul called on him with eight seconds remaining that wiped out a game-tying layup. Andrew Greif, Los Angeles Times, "Clippers and Nets’ superstar battle comes down to defense, and close call, at the end," 21 Feb. 2021 Akinjo later drew a shooting foul beyond the 3-point line from Tyger Campbell, hitting the first two resulting free throws to pull UA within 62-54. Bruce Pascoe, The Arizona Republic, "Arizona's defense collapses in second half in 5th straight loss to UCLA," 19 Feb. 2021 The contract was awarded to Microsoft last October, prompting Amazon to cry foul. Robert Burns, Star Tribune, "Pentagon reaffirms Microsoft as winner of disputed JEDI deal," 4 Sep. 2020 The decision has not sat well with Oregon restaurants that have cried foul over the governor's latest health restrictions after a year of punishing job losses. Tim Gruver, Washington Examiner, "Oregon gyms, theaters to reopen as restaurants demand relaxed health restrictions," 28 Jan. 2021 Human rights organizations and privacy advocates cried foul. Annie Jacobsen, Wired, "Palantir’s God’s-Eye View of Afghanistan," 20 Jan. 2021 Some prominent conservatives including Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida cried foul, accusing Twitter of wiping out right-wing accounts because of their political beliefs. Jessica Guynn, USA TODAY, "Trump allies and Republican lawmakers lost thousands of followers in Twitter purge after Capitol riots," 15 Jan. 2021 Republicans are crying foul that Democrats are trying to use Washington politics to undo Iowa's official results. Marisa Schultz, Fox News, "Iowa House seat flipped by Republican in jeopardy?," 10 Dec. 2020 When the state announced in September that only 21 finalists qualified for a lottery for the 75 pot shops, the hundreds of other applicants cried foul. Robert Mccoppin,, "First year of legal marijuana in Illinois generated big bucks but no new minority license holders," 31 Dec. 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

7 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Foul.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Mar. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLA Chicago APA Merriam-Webster

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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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