\ 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 The Spurs’ top rim protector, Jakob Poeltl, was intermittently handcuffed with foul trouble. Jeff Mcdonald, San Antonio Express-News, "Thriller in D.C. vs. Wizards shows Spurs team growing up," 27 Apr. 2021 Even Lamar Stevens got some extended run because of foul trouble. Chris Fedor, cleveland, "Darius Garland’s ascension continues but Cleveland Cavaliers fade late against Washington Wizards in 119-110 loss," 26 Apr. 2021 Despite early foul trouble for both, Brissett and Sampson combined for 24 points and 13 rebounds in Orlando. J. Michael, The Indianapolis Star, "Insider: What the Pacers can learn from playing small-ball with Sabonis and Turner out," 26 Apr. 2021 Jackson finished with 15 points, eight rebounds and four blocks in 18 minutes but got into a bit of foul trouble during the Grizzlies' 117-105 loss against the Los Angeles Clippers. Matt Eppers, USA TODAY, "In and out: Joel Embiid was inches from forcing OT after a full-court heave rimmed out," 22 Apr. 2021 Grant’s foul trouble helped stymie the Pistons’ upset bid. Callie Caplan, Dallas News, "Led by Luka Doncic’s near triple-double, Mavericks get much-needed win over Pistons," 21 Apr. 2021 Karl-Anthony Towns returned from a two-game absence for personal reasons and overcame first-half foul trouble to score 24. Chris Hine, Star Tribune, "Timberwolves welcome back Jimmy Butler, pin a loss on Miami," 16 Apr. 2021 In Wasatch’s season-ending loss to Montverde Academy at the GEICO national invitational, Hickman was limited to just four points but tallied nine assists, four rebounds and two steals while battling foul trouble. Jon Hale, The Courier-Journal, "Can Nolan Hickman carry the load as Kentucky basketball's primary point guard?," 12 Apr. 2021 But if Embiid or Howard get hurt or fall into foul trouble, the Sixers would be bereft of reliable options at the 5 given Scott's inconsistency. Bryan Toporek, Forbes, "Anthony Tolliver Could Be Ersan Ilyasova 2.0 For The Sixers," 10 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Towns committed his sixth foul on Butler, and the Wolves had to play without him the rest of the way while clutching a four-point lead. Chris Hine, Star Tribune, "Timberwolves welcome back Jimmy Butler, pin a loss on Miami," 16 Apr. 2021 Jalen Suggs, Gonzaga’s hero and, in all likelihood, its highest draft pick come summer, exits three minutes into the game with his second foul. Zach Osterman, The Indianapolis Star, "How Baylor took apart previously perfect Gonzaga in NCAA championship game," 6 Apr. 2021 With 7:08 left in the opening quarter, Williams collected his second foul and then went to the bench., "Celtics don’t have the size to stop 76ers giant Joel Emiid, and other observations," 6 Apr. 2021 The gamble proved costly when Turner was forced to the bench with his fifth foul with 6:05 left in the third period, amid a 15-2 Heat run. Ira Winderman,, "Heat dig in for second consecutive win, dump Pacers 92-87," 31 Mar. 2021 The Beavers’ first break came with 10:43 left in the first half, when Lucas Williamson drew his second foul. oregonlive, "Oregon State’s sizzling postseason continues, as Beavers reach Elite Eight with a 65-58 win over Loyola of Chicago," 27 Mar. 2021 Texas couldn’t afford for Coleman to pick up his second foul less than five minutes into the game. Dallas News, "Takeaways: Longhorns upset by Abilene Christian in first round of NCAA Tournament, 53-52," 20 Mar. 2021 His last foul allowed Botkins to extend its lead to two possessions at the free-throw line. Matt Goul, cleveland, "Botkins stops Richmond Heights, 44-40, in OHSAA Division IV boys basketball state semifinal," 19 Mar. 2021 The vaccination effort has been complicated by unequal access to shots, an incomplete understanding of side effects and manufacturing foul-ups. Greg Bardsley, CNN, "The people who saved us deserve a ticker tape parade," 21 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The Celtics opted not to foul as the Spurs rushed upcourt in search of that 3-pointer, and in the NBA that’s probably the smart play., "Seven thoughts about the Celtics’ colossal comeback Friday night, sparked by Jayson Tatum’s 60 points," 1 May 2021 And Cronin didn’t want to foul an Alabama shooter on a 3-point attempt. David Woods, The Indianapolis Star, "Fitting Hinkle send-off: UCLA survives buzzer beater and OT to dispatch Alabama," 29 Mar. 2021 Defensively, Walker took three charges against Phoenix’s All-Star guard Devin Booker, helping foul him out of the game., "What Kemba Walker did vs. the Suns is exactly why the Celtics signed him — a big-time performance that saved the day," 22 Apr. 2021 Both Williamson and Bledsoe confirmed that the Pelicans were aware of the instructions to foul after the Knicks inbounded the ball trailing by three. Brian Mahoney, Star Tribune, "Knicks rally late, top Pelicans in OT for 6th win in row," 18 Apr. 2021 After getting behind 3-1 in the count, Mize forced Arraez to foul away four fastballs. Evan Petzold, Detroit Free Press, "Akil Baddoo hits walk-off single in 10th inning in Detroit Tigers' 4-3 win over Twins," 6 Apr. 2021 Beals says his club is dedicated to turning back the tide of newcomers who would come to fill the freeways and foul the subdivisions. San Diego Union-Tribune, "From the Archives: Some in S.D. pleased when visitors go back home," 28 Mar. 2021 Abmas pulled up from the right wing, a stunningly open look as Davis and Tate flew by, careful not to foul. Kyle Neddenriep, The Indianapolis Star, "'When it left my hands, it felt good.' Max Abmas, Oral Roberts come up inches short," 28 Mar. 2021 Defensively, Bamba tends to foul too much and needs to improve his decisiveness and positioning in pick-and-roll coverages. Roy Parry,, "Magic center Mo Bamba eager to seize opportunity coming with bump in minutes," 1 Mar. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb The move also had congressional members on both sides of the aisle crying foul, and Lamborn has been the loudest. al, "Space Command’s top general: Alabama lacks needed communications capabilities," 25 Apr. 2021 Congressional Republicans continue crying foul over his plan, while the Taliban have not yet broken with al Qaeda and continue daily attacks against the Afghan government. Abraham Mahshie, Washington Examiner, "'As long as we can': Commander says fending off Taliban will end as US leaves Afghanistan," 22 Apr. 2021 There was a lot of hue and cry over that process, with some Republicans crying foul, but the process worked. Andy Meek, BGR, "Is a fourth stimulus check on the way? Here’s what we know," 19 Apr. 2021 Bitadze picked up his third foul by leaning into a defender unnecessarily on a screen. J. Michael, The Indianapolis Star, "Reserves spark Indiana Pacers to hold off Orlando Magic and win 2nd game in a row," 10 Apr. 2021 Davion Mitchell picks up his third foul after barreling into Jaylin Williams around the rim. Scottie Bordelon, Arkansas Online, "Arkansas loses to Baylor in Elite Eight," 30 Mar. 2021 Eric Hawthorne ruled it foul, but as Hannah Galey came in to score home plate umpire Mike Bartling ruled her safe for a walk-off 2-1 win for Oregon. James Crepea | The Oregonian/oregonlive, oregonlive, "Oregon Ducks softball splits doubleheader against Stanford, protested call decides series opener," 23 Apr. 2021 The Crew were awarded a penalty late in the first half, but VAR determined the foul took place outside of the box. Jim Reineking, USA TODAY, "LAFC hosts Seattle Sounders in Saturday showdown, Chicharito redemption tour returns to Los Angeles," 23 Apr. 2021 Several Angels players immediately argued that the ball landed foul off the right-field line, but there wasn’t enough conclusive video to overturn the call. Jack Harris, Los Angeles Times, "Angels bullpen tarnishes fine start from Andrew Heaney in loss to Astros," 23 Apr. 2021

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

6 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Foul.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 May. 2021.

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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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