\ 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

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 More likely, though, a wayward tampon will just lead to a build-up of bacteria, which can cause a foul odor. Kara Wahlgren, Seventeen, "6 Reasons It Might Smell Funky Down There," 7 Nov. 2017 Even Andre Iguodala checking into the game midway through the quarter didn’t seem to yield immediate results as the wing was immediately hit with a foul call. Scott Cacciola, New York Times, "Kevin Durant Pulls Warriors Closer to Another N.B.A. Title," 7 June 2018 Stewart was asked about the controversial fourth-quarter foul call, which was reversed by officials and called as a block on James. Peter Hartlaub, San Francisco Chronicle, "Jon Stewart dropped by S.F., but it felt like he’s been here the whole time," 6 June 2018 Green defended against Anthony Davis on an early miss by the Pelicans' all-star forward, and Davis appeared frustrated to not get a foul call. Christopher Dabe,, "Rajon Rondo, Draymond Green have another mixup early in Game 3," 4 May 2018 Now the player with the ball initiating contact to get a foul call has become an NBA epidemic. Nick Canepa,, "Soft NFL would be even softer if kickoff returns got the boot," 21 Apr. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Even though the foul wasn't nearly as vicious as the one Delem made on Valeri, Ridgewell also easily could have been shown a red card for the tackle. Jamie Goldberg,, "Timbers midfielder Sebastian Blanco celebrates game-winning goal by donning Chucky mask," 13 May 2018 Late in the game, a defensive breakdown from a teammate led to a clear path to the basket, forcing Jackson to commit a foul. Vince Ellis, Detroit Free Press, "Jaren Jackson Jr.'s weary Sunday caps fabulous NBA Summer League week," 9 July 2018 At different times, foul calls quashed the Fever's momentum. Jordan Guskey, Indianapolis Star, "Indiana Fever fall to 2-18 in loss against Minnesota Lynx," 11 July 2018 The journeyman point guard shoots at least 100 foul shots every day in the offseason, keeps regular appointments with trainers for massages and tapings, peppers young teammates with pointers and doesn’t complain when his playing time fluctuates. Connor Letourneau,, "Shaun Livingston: How Warriors guard peaked when it mattered most," 1 July 2018 DeRozan saw multiple defenders at every turn and the frustration was obvious, often shouting at the officials and demanding foul calls. Chris Fedor,, "Cleveland Cavaliers have frustrated DeMar DeRozan, taken him out of series," 6 May 2018 The Heat’s starting center played only 13 minutes and had five points and two rebounds while battling foul trouble. Manny Navarro, miamiherald, "Sixers' Embiid 'not here to to make friends' with Heat. He's here to be a nightmare | Miami Herald," 20 Apr. 2018 The chippy, physical game came down to a couple of foul calls in the final seconds, and Monique Reid nailed two free throws with 2.6 seconds left to hand Louisville the victory. Danielle Lerner, The Courier-Journal, "Louisville women's basketball is no stranger to the Sweet 16. But how have the Cards done?," 20 Mar. 2018 Macura went to the rim but Cartwright stood his ground and drew the offensive foul call from referee Jeff Anderson. Tom Canavan,, "Providences rallies from 17 down to stun No. 3 Xavier," 9 Mar. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Angers was awarded its first penalty in the 36th minute after Jordan Amavi fouled Ismael Traore in the box. Samuel Petrequin, The Seattle Times, "Strasbourg wins French League Cup after penalty shootout," 30 Mar. 2019 Paris Saint-Germain winger Neymar has called for extra protection from referees after the Brazil international was fouled a record 10 times against Switzerland on Sunday., "Neymar Reveals Concern for Brazil After Brutal Treatment by Switzerland," 18 June 2018 Williams answered — by being fouled on a pair of 3-pointers., "Loyola-Chicago upsets Miami with late 3-pointer," 16 Mar. 2018 Three seconds remained on the clock, Tinkle was fouled on the inbound and the Missoula, Montana, native secured the Beavers a spot in Thursday's quarterfinal against No. 2 seed USC. Tyson Alger,, "Tres Tinkle, Drew Eubanks lead Oregon State to 'gut check' win over Washington at Pac-12 men's tournament," 8 Mar. 2018 However, Pezeshkian was fouled on a three-point attempt with one second left and made all three free throws to knot it at 58. Charles Rich,, "Glendale boys' basketball stuns Crescenta Valley in overtime," 30 Jan. 2018 Reyes then fouled off three straight pitches – two 92 mph cutters and a 94 mph four-seamer – before Jansen missed high and away with one last cutter to put the game’s tying run on first base. Jeff Sanders,, "Padres' Franmil Reyes savoring teachable moments," 13 July 2018 Taking a day off Outfielder JaCoby Jones got a day off on Thursday after fouling some pitches off on the road trip and getting a little beat up. George Sipple, Detroit Free Press, "Launch angle, Goodrum's bat cost Dixon Machado spot on Detroit Tigers," 5 July 2018 After fouling off a few pitches, George’s first plate appearance ended in a swing-and-miss strikeout. Blair Kerkhoff, kansascity, "Can you imagine a 16-year-old playing in the majors? This Rockhurst grad did, for the KC Athletics," 8 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb

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 Mr Maliki and his allies cried foul and said a new electronic-voting system made the poll easier to rig. The Economist, "Burnt votes and an election recount might plunge Iraq into crisis," 14 June 2018 Gab cries foul as Pennsylvania attorney general subpoenas DNS provider Pennsylvania’s attorney general sent a subpoena to Epic, Gab’s new DNS provider. Casey Newton, The Verge, "One easy thing Facebook should do in Myanmar," 10 Nov. 2018 Republicans sued to try to overturn the election, crying foul over alleged vote irregularities in King County. Jim Brunner, The Seattle Times, "Kim Schrier leads Dino Rossi in 8th Congressional District," 6 Nov. 2018 And though fans cried foul, saying ABC nixed the show because of Tim Allen’s conservative politics, the show won’t specifically talk about President Trump. Megan Friedman, Country Living, "The New Season of ‘Last Man Standing’ Won’t Talk About President Trump," 3 Aug. 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

24 Apr 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 valued as if it were money

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