\ 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

For Hemphill, who managed to buy a condo in SoMa in 2002, when real estate was far more affordable, the urinating man with a foul mouth was just an everyday occurrence. Heather Knight,, "Welcome home: Trips abroad put San Francisco’s chaotic streets in perspective," 13 July 2019 Kenney then scored off a foul outside of five meters, and Newport Harbor suddenly had a 6-3 lead with 5:23 remaining in the third quarter. Matt Szabo,, "Newport Harbor boys’ water polo wins Summer Elite Eight tournament," 13 July 2019 The $100 million Polar Park is planned for a lot in Worcester’s Canal District, with light post was painted yellow on Thursday to mark the future foul pole in left field. Washington Post, "Worcester breaks ground for minor league stadium," 11 July 2019 The property owner who reported the foul odor is a relative of Sparks, according to police, who have not further specified the relationship between the two. Billy Kobin, The Courier-Journal, "Six months after Savannah Spurlock disappeared, her body is found. Here's what to know," 11 July 2019 After a double steal put runners at second and third against Cleveland reliever Brad Hand, White Sox catcher James McCann made a tumbling catch on Mike Moustakas' twisting foul pop to end the inning., "MLB All-Star Game: American League holds on for seventh straight victory, 4-3," 10 July 2019 To further frustrate hitters, there was 90 feet of space in foul territory between the plate and grandstand, meaning foul popups were more likely to be caught for outs than land out of play. Mark Schmetzer,, "Top Cincinnati Reds games: No. 31 – Redland Field opened with 10-6 win over Chicago Cubs," 10 July 2019 After a double steal put runners at second and third against Cleveland reliever Brad Hand, White Sox catcher James McCann made a tumbling catch on Mike Moustakas’ twisting foul pop to end the inning. Ben Walker,, "Bieber, AL pitchers quiet NL’s big bats for All-Star win," 10 July 2019 After a double steal put runners at second and third against Cleveland reliever Brad Hand, White Sox catcher James McCann made a tumbling catch on Mike Moustakas’ twisting foul pop to end the inning. Ben Walker, The Mercury News, "AL strikes out 16, holds off NL for 4-3 win in All-Star Game," 9 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Williamson used his brute strength to get to the basket, drawing two fouls against center Mitchell Robinson, who had the nerve to try to stand his ground and defend him. Gary Washburn,, "After Zion shakes NBA world, earthquake takes over," 6 July 2019 Meanwhile, Warriors Coach Steve Kerr is leaving Klay Thompson in with two fouls. Marc Stein, New York Times, "How the Warriors Survived Game 5 of the N.B.A. Finals," 10 June 2019 Anigwe, who had two fouls in the game’s first 6 ½ minutes, finished with 13 points on 4-of-17 shooting and five rebounds. Stephen Hawkins, The Seattle Times, "Baylor women 11th Sweet 16 in row after beating Cal 102-63," 25 Mar. 2019 Thompson was called for a flagrant foul two and seemed confused by being ejected. Jenna West,, "Watch: Draymond Green Told Tristan Thompson: 'We Ain't Cut the Same'," 12 June 2018 DeRozan, who hit all head, was slapped with a flagrant-two foul -- an automatic shower. Joe Vardon,, "Cavaliers back in Eastern Finals after finishing off another Raptors sweep, 128-93 in Game 4," 7 May 2018 But with starting center John Henson out due to back soreness, Maker was quickly ushered into the game when starter Tyler Zeller picked up two first-quarter fouls. Matt Velazquez, USA TODAY, "Milwaukee Bucks rout Boston Celtics in Game 3 of NBA playoff series," 21 Apr. 2018 Germany wanted a foul in the buildup but it wasn't given. Ravi Ubha, CNN, "Sweden stuns Germany at Women's World Cup as Dutch reach maiden semifinal," 29 June 2019 In need a spark, the Fever got just that after a flagrant foul sent Natalie Achonwa tumbling into the stanchion. Akeem Glaspie, Indianapolis Star, "Fever overcome 22-point deficit before losing late to Lynx," 26 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Thompson returned for the next three games before tearing his ACL in his left knee after Danny Green fouled him on a dunk attempt with 2:22 left in the third quarter. Mark Medina, The Mercury News, "Klay Thompson might become a ‘Warrior for life” after agreeing to max deal," 30 June 2019 Renfroe actually made contact with the pitch, but fouled it off. Todd Rosiak, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Padres 4, Brewers 1: Rookie pitcher short-circuits offense once again," 19 June 2019 Late in the third quarter of Game 6 against the Toronto Raptors, Thompson got fouled by Danny Green on a dunk off a pass from Steph Curry. Mark Heim |,, "NBA Finals: Watch injured Klay Thompson make inspirational return to hit FTs before being ruled out," 13 June 2019 Vela was fouled eight times during Saturday’s game. Jamie Goldberg,, "Portland Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese: ‘I’m proud of the way my players played’ against LAFC," 5 June 2019 Fans cheered whenever one of the A’s fouled off one of his pitches. Monte Umsted, Pomerado News, "Trio combines for perfect Poway city championship win," 10 June 2019 Albert fouled off five-straight Vietmeier fastballs. Brody Miller,, "Despite Todd Peterson ‘heroics,’ LSU bullpen falls off in game one loss," 8 June 2019 Hicks got ahead 3-1 in the count, fouled off a sinker and swung over a slider that probably would have been low for ball four. Ronald Blum, The Seattle Times, "Alvarado rebounds, Rays top Yanks 2-1, back into 1st place," 18 May 2019 With a full count, Suarez fouled off two straight pitches. Bobby Nightengale,, "Cincinnati Reds bullpen blows 5-run lead in loss to Chicago Cubs," 7 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb

The prosecutors cried foul, noting their authority had been challenged only after things didn’t go the attorneys’ way. Megan Crepeau,, "Burge-related hearing grows contentious as attorneys seek to oust special prosecutor," 14 June 2019 Hognose snake: To make their fake death throes as convincing as possible, hognose snakes of the North American genus Heterodon have been known to secrete a foul-smelling fluid and even spew blood. Patricia Edmonds, National Geographic, "Why this insect fakes death to avoid sex," 17 June 2019 This time, the mysterious threat appears to be an attack of extraterrestrial cow patties, enormous heaps of foul-smelling gunk that fall out of the sky to slime the characters at random. Justin Chang,, "Mariano Llinás’ ‘La Flor’ is the dazzling, epic centerpiece of Locarno in Los Angeles," 15 June 2018 Never apply a foul-smelling compost tea to your plants. Blair Donovan, Country Living, "How to Make Compost Tea for Your Garden," 29 May 2019 Betts turned on it and belted in into Yankee Stadium’s second deck — hooking it just foul. Adam Jude, The Seattle Times, "Justus Sheffield found his competitive spirit early, and now it’s driving him toward a Mariners call-up," 13 Apr. 2019 Guirgis found Bannon to be alternately (and sometimes simultaneously) charismatic, demanding, intelligent, and foul-tempered, and, though the company was shuttered a few years later, the two stayed in touch. Corey Seymour, Vogue, "I Watched the New Steve Bannon Documentary, The Brink, So You Don’t Have To," 27 Mar. 2019 Cavs' LeBron James Drains Game-Winning Buzzer Beater to Beat Pacers LeBron a straight (foul) shooter James was 15-of-15 at the foul line Wednesday. Joe Vardon,, "LeBron James' big shot, Tyronn Lue's blackouts, and more Hunger Games: Inside Cavs-Pacers series," 26 Apr. 2018 The swinging-bunt single by Mason Meadows that hugged the third-base line but wouldn't go foul, helping to send LJ Talley home as Georgia's lead swelled to five runs. Rainer Sabin,, "Alabama beats Georgia in wild SEC opener, 10-9," 16 Mar. 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

17 Jul 2019

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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

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