\ 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
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
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 foully (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 Late in the first half, McGuire picked up a technical arguing a foul call, leading into a five-point play that turned a 28-27 lead into a 32-28 deficit. Jr Radcliffe, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "50 in 50: Al McGuire jumps on the table after Marquette shocks Wisconsin," 25 Apr. 2020 His body was left in the apartment for over a week before a neighbor reported a foul smell. Fox News, "'Cult mom' Lori Vallow's ex-husband sued her years ago for allegedly hiding their daughter: report," 17 May 2020 Born and raised in a town not far from Mexico City, Caldern-Garcidueas has studied the health impacts of the region's foul air for decades. Ellen Ruppel Shell, Scientific American, "The New Alzheimer’s–Air Pollution Link," 12 May 2020 Mouth breathing or snoring, such as from sleep apnea, further dries out the mouth, making your breath even more foul. Sandee Lamotte, CNN, "Bad breath behind that coronavirus mask? 10 reasons -- and remedies -- for your halitosis," 5 May 2020 Drexler made both foul shots, then was fouled again with 16.4 seconds to play. oregonlive, "Trail Blazers classics: Portland beats San Antonio Spurs to advance to 1990 Western Conference finals for 2nd time in franchise history," 28 Apr. 2020 The Bad Boys were famously — especially around here — a bad foul call away from a three-peat, falling to the Lakers in the 1988 NBA Finals. Shawn Windsor, Detroit Free Press, "Don't let 'The Last Dance' make you forget how beautiful the 'Bad Boys' Pistons could be," 26 Apr. 2020 But there’s been so much foul anguish whipped up around this character that the treatment feels like another form of wheel-spinning. Scott Tobias, New York Times, "‘Westworld’ Season 3, Episode 6 Recap: The Man in White," 19 Apr. 2020 Nothing that complicated, but brace yourself, because old differential oil has the foulest smell in the automotive world. Ben Wojdyla, Popular Mechanics, "How to Care for Your Car's Differential," 18 Apr. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Artest delivers a hard foul on Ben Wallace, who retaliates with a shove that sends Artest all the way to media row. Ryan Ford, Detroit Free Press, "The most stunning Michigan sports endings this century from all corners," 1 June 2020 At the time, the Warriors were down by two points, then four with the free throws that resulted from Lucas' final foul. Jr Radcliffe, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "The Next Ten: Marquette dismisses Kansas to reach the 1974 NCAA championship game," 29 May 2020 The Eagles also propsed a rule to make permanent the expansion of automatic replay reviews to include scoring plays and turnovers negated by a foul and any successful or unsuccessful try attempt. Dan Labbe, cleveland, "NFL considering 4th-and-15 onside kick proposal among other rule changes," 21 May 2020 To keep your home clean and reduce any foul smells, ferrets can be trained to use a litter box, just like pet cats. Texas A&m University, Houston Chronicle, "PET TALK: Down to business: Ferrets as pets," 16 May 2020 Despite shooting just one free throw in the first half — on a Dennis Rodman technical foul — and not shooting a free throw resulting from a Bulls foul until 1:32 left in the third quarter. Matthew Glenesk, Indianapolis Star, "How Pacers pushed Michael Jordan, Bulls to the brink in 1998: 'They saw the fear in Chicago's eyes.'," 15 May 2020 Dear Taxpayer,’’ and displayed Bush’s name prominently, leading Democrats to cry foul that a government agency was stepping into politicking. Joe Davidson, BostonGlobe.com, "Three prominent lawyers say president’s name shouldn’t be on stimulus checks," 29 Apr. 2020 In soccer, a red card is used by referees to eject a player after a foul. Anchorage Daily News, "Boeing workers return to their factories in a closely watched coronavirus experiment," 22 Apr. 2020 Pipes corroded and leached lead and water turned foul, yet authorities dismissed residents’ complaints. Smithsonian Magazine, Smithsonian Magazine, "Fifty Things We’ve Learned About the Earth Since the First Earth Day," 22 Apr. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb No one wants to see all $500 billion lost, but losing a little taxpayer money on these programs is the equivalent of a basketball player fouling a time or two during a game — taking a few risks to win the game. Washington Post, "U.S. taxpayers might lose money helping companies. Economists say it’s a good thing.," 21 May 2020 Miller grabs the rebound and is fouled with 7.5 seconds left. Dana Hunsinger Benbow, Indianapolis Star, "Inside Madison Square Garden when Reggie Miller's 8 points in 8.9 seconds echoed round the world," 2 May 2020 Drexler made both foul shots, then was fouled again with 16.4 seconds to play. oregonlive, "Trail Blazers classics: Portland beats San Antonio Spurs to advance to 1990 Western Conference finals for 2nd time in franchise history," 28 Apr. 2020 While trading blows, DelBello knocked down a three with 5:05 left in the game and was fouled. Alex Harrison, Cincinnati.com, "Cincinnati Country Day stopped in regional final by powerhouse Fort Loramie," 8 Mar. 2020 First Michaela hit a driving layup and was fouled, with the free throw opening a 24-20 lead. cleveland, "Cornerstone Christian outlasts Dalton 35-29 in Div. IV girls basketball regional semifinal," 6 Mar. 2020 Then after replay reversed what appeared to be a critical turnover on Winston, the senior guard drove and got fouled by Wheeler with 53.1 seconds to play. Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan State basketball stuns Penn State, 79-71; now tied atop Big Ten," 4 Mar. 2020 Pritzl grabbed the rebound and was fouled with 11.7 seconds left. Jeff Potrykus, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Wisconsin 71, Minnesota 69: Brad Davison gets some payback as Badgers extend win streak," 1 Mar. 2020 Flower Mound had a chance to tie the game when Mills was fouled with 8.8 seconds left and Grand Prairie holding a 68-66 lead, but Mills missed his second attempt. Dallas News, "UIL boys basketball: Clutch defense helps Grand Prairie secure area round win over Flower Mound," 29 Feb. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb Domestic critics and international human rights organizations say Poland’s conservative government is playing foul by bringing the controversial proposals to parliament during the coronavirus pandemic. Vanessa Gera, BostonGlobe.com, "Polish government divided on ‘Draconian’ abortion, sex education bills," 15 Apr. 2020 Still, others around the country are crying foul over that principle applying to an Apple watch. Dan Wolken, USA TODAY, "Alabama's use of Apple watches to track football players sets off rules debate," 3 Apr. 2020 With Democrats crying foul over concerns that Barr is empowering Trump to seek revenge on his political rivals, the House Judiciary Committee announced on Wednesday that the attorney general will testify before the panel at the end of March. Caitlin Yilek, Washington Examiner, "Andrew McCabe: 'Absolutely nothing to stop' Trump from ordering political investigations," 13 Feb. 2020 Ohio State’s defense: The Buckeyes have held opponents to 31.6 shooting, but are very foul-prone: The team has been called for 20.8 fouls on average each game, with 26 percent of opponents’ points coming from the foul line so far this season. Alexa Philippou, courant.com, "UConn women’s basketball vs. Ohio State: time, how to watch, broadcasters, preview," 24 Nov. 2019 Any other time if one arrives safely, no harm, no foul — in theory. NBC News, "'Cannonball' coast-to-coast drive record set amid virus shutdown," 31 Oct. 2013 When the central bank launched its Main Street Lending Program, which will provide four-year loans to businesses with fewer than ten thousand employees, colleges and other nonprofit organizations cried foul and asked to be included. John Cassidy, The New Yorker, "The Man with the U.S. Economy (and Trump’s Reëlection Chances) in His Hands," 28 Apr. 2020 Officials later made the video private after residents cried foul. Chronicle Staff, SFChronicle.com, "Coronavirus news from the Bay Area: April 1-2," 24 Apr. 2020 As people often do when change is afoot, football fans, coaches and pundits cried foul. Creg Stephenson | Cstephenson@al.com, al, "Keith McCants’ road from No. 1 NFL draft prospect to cautionary tale," 22 Apr. 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

4 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Foul.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/foul. Accessed 7 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for foul

How to pronounce foul (audio)

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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for foul

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with foul

Spanish Central: Translation of foul

Nglish: Translation of foul for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of foul for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about foul

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