\ 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

Thompson then left the game immediately after the foul shots with 30 points on 8-of-12 shooting overall and 4-of-6 from the 3-point line. Dan Wolken, USA TODAY, "Warriors' Klay Thompson leaves Game 6 with apparent knee injury, will not return," 13 June 2019 Like a basketball, the arena is round: Basketball is a fluid game, pulsing with energetic ebbs and flows — until the grind of foul shots and timeouts in the last two minutes of close games, that is. John King,, "A look at why pro basketball and Oracle Arena were a perfect fit," 7 June 2019 No one who has averaged more than four 3-point attempts per game has taken as many foul shots as Harden. Ben Cohen, WSJ, "James Harden Is the Outlier of the NBA," 9 Jan. 2019 Cockroaches will still be referred to by their common names as well, which are too foul to publish. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "Termites Are Moving in With Cockroaches, Taxonomically," 5 Mar. 2018 The music industry, the business side of it, left me with a pretty foul taste. Randall Roberts,, "L.A. noise-punk band No Age explains how layers of hiss and shards of melody combine to create 'a pretty good magic trick'," 9 Feb. 2018 Major League Baseball wanted to know whether umpires could make calls more accurately—fair or foul—if the poles were blue instead of the usual yellow. ... Peter Funt, WSJ, "Strike Four, You’re Out!," 19 Mar. 2019 The leak left a pool of sewage near the Dodgers’ dugout in foul territory. Ryan Gaydos, Fox News, "Dodgers-Angels spring training finale halted by foul-smelling sewage leak," 28 Mar. 2018 The plants don’t emit the foul odor until the bloom, which usually lasts only 24 hours. Ariel Tu, The Seattle Times, "Stinky ‘corpse flower’ expected to bloom in California," 30 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Due to the fact that Thompson’s injury occurred on a foul, the athlete had to remain on the court and attempt his free throws, otherwise, he would be disqualified for the rest of the game. Helen Murphy,, "Toronto Raptors Defeat Golden State Warriors in Tight Game to Win Their First-Ever NBA Championship," 14 June 2019 Soccer is such a low-scoring sport by comparison with others that the margins for success and failure are particularly small; this means that acts of gamesmanship—a sly foul here, a cunning dive there—can be especially pivotal. Musa Okwonga, Quartz Africa, "How to make the case for and against VAR—video assistant referee—in the beautiful game," 10 June 2019 After Bader opened the third inning with a single, Hudson dropped a sacrifice bunt that refused to roll foul, sitting on the white chalk that marks the first-base line. Bobby Nightengale,, "Cincinnati Reds split series against St. Louis Cardinals after Paul DeJong's go-ahead HR," 6 June 2019 The Warriors didn’t foul, and Thompson was visibly frustrated with his teammates after Serge Ibaka hit a wide-open 3 because of it. Matt Schneidman, The Mercury News, "What will it take for Klay Thompson to miss Game 3 of NBA Finals?," 4 June 2019 There could still be game-deciding sanctions for hard fouls, bean balls, unnecessary roughness or other violations that affect games or threaten injury, but not for speech or other expression. Alan M. Dershowitz, WSJ, "Bad Sports Don’t Deserve to Lose," 13 Sep. 2018 Begoun calls foul on this line of thinking, telling me that scrubbing to make ingredients penetrate better is like stabbing yourself only to stick medicine in the wound. Ashley Weatherford, The Cut, "Are You Exfoliating Your Face Wrong?," 11 July 2018 Crutcher sat for most of it after picking up his second foul. Rick Armstrong, Aurora Beacon-News, "West Aurora has no answers for EJ Liddell and Belleville West in supersectional loss," 14 Mar. 2018 The Seawolves got the ball back when D.J. Ursery grabbed the rebound on a Simon Fraser miss and drew a foul to earn a trip to the foul line with 13.1 seconds left. Anchorage Daily News, "Narrow win keeps UAA men’s basketball team in postseason picture," 18 Feb. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

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 Gallo fouled off eight pitches, including five consecutive pitches with two runners on and two outs and Texas trailing 5-3. Stefan Stevenson, star-telegram, "Rangers Reaction: Enjoy the enjoyable even if your team stinks," 4 July 2018 During the fourth inning of the Royals' 2-0 win over the Angels, Albert Pujols fouled off a pitch from Brad Keller. Pete Grathoff, kansascity, "This Royals fan didn't need a free hand to catch a foul ball," 25 June 2018 Todd Frazier swung at a fastball in the bottom of the fourth, fouling it off and also sending his bat deep into foul territory down the third base line. Scott Orgera,, "Blake Snell dazzles as Rays blank Mets 3-0," 7 July 2018 Kemp swung, fouled it off and made contact with the mitt. Chandler Rome, Houston Chronicle, "Yuli Gurriel's grand slam fuels Astros' rout of Royals," 24 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb

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 After 88 years of soccer players, coaches and fans crying foul, there is finally a second chance for a referee to confirm whether a penalty is indeed a penalty at the World Cup. Christopher Clarey, New York Times, "France Passes First World Cup Test. So Does V.A.R.," 17 June 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

19 Jun 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

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).


to take the place or position of

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