\ 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

But as fate would have it, the Diamondbacks loaded the bases in the sixth for Bell, who fouled off a pair of two-strike pitches before depositing a ball in the left-field seats. Richard Morin, azcentral, "Million-dollar anniversary: Grand slam from Diamondbacks' Jay Bell still going 20 years later," 11 July 2019 The officials ruled that Bates-Diop fouled Durant before Durant got into his shooting motion. Gary Peterson, The Mercury News, "NBA institutes coach challenges; 5 times one would have come in handy for Steve Kerr," 10 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 Eloy Jimenez just missed hitting a home run on the second pitch of his fourth-inning at-bat Sunday against Kyle Hendricks, pulling the ball foul down the left-field line. Lamond Pope,, "Eloy Jimenez’s 2-run homer propels the White Sox to a 3-1 win over the Cubs," 7 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. Tales Azzoni And Mauricio Savarese, Houston Chronicle, "Brazil beats Peru to win 1st Copa América title since 2007," 7 July 2019 Rapinoe scored in the 61st minute after a video review determined Stefanie van der Gragt had fouled Alex Morgan with a kick to the shoulder in the penalty area. Anne M. Peterson, Twin Cities, "United States defeats Netherlands 2-0 for record fourth Women’s World Cup title," 7 July 2019 At 5:41 of the third, Edmond Sumner (four points) attempted to drive into traffic but was fouled in a collision. J. Michael, Indianapolis Star, "The good and bad: Takeaways from Pacers' summer league blowout loss to Grizzlies," 6 July 2019 The Pelicans tried a lob to Williamson on the first play after the tap, and he got cheered for getting fouled. Tim Reynolds,, "Before a Las Vegas sellout, Zion Williamson only plays nine minutes in pro debut," 5 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb

By Jeff Mason | Reuters MCALLEN, Tex. – Vice President Mike Pence viewed an overcrowded, foul-smelling facility in Texas on Friday where nearly 400 men are detained after being accused of crossing the U.S. border illegally. Reuters, The Mercury News, "Pence tours crowded migrant detention facility in Texas," 12 July 2019 In 2016, backers of Sen. Bernie Sanders cried foul over the Iowa results when Clinton won a razor-thin margin, 49.9 percent to 49.6 percent, despite some irregularities in reporting results. Thomas Beaumont,, "Iowa, Nevada to launch caucus voting by phone for 2020," 8 July 2019 According to Expansion, a Mexican business magazine, hotels in Quintana Roo saw a decrease in visitors in June due in part to the heaps of unsightly, foul-smelling seaweed washing up on the beaches. Zoe Sottile And Ella Hurworth, CNN, "Record-breaking seaweed bloom stretches from West Africa to Mexico," 5 July 2019 After City Administrator Sabrina Landreth said last week that layoffs would be needed if the council passed Kaplan’s budget, workers cried foul. Sarah Ravani,, "Oakland budget fight turns harsh as workers file unfair labor claim against city," 12 June 2019 One of the interesting early insights was that foul-smelling components are critical to wine. Hannah Goldfield, WSJ, "An Exclusive First Taste of Lab-Made Whiskey," 1 Oct. 2018 Parisian leaders are trying to tackle a problem that is evident to anyone who’s ever tried to catch a glimpse of a historic site in a historic city and instead caught a foul-smelling whiff of stale urine. Cleve R. Wootson Jr., The Seattle Times, "Paris tries a solution to peeing on historic streets: open sidewalk urinals," 14 Aug. 2018 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

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

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).


something desired as essential

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