\ 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

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 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

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 With the bases loaded, two outs and Howard down, 4-3, Kulick fouled off four pitches before drilling an 0-2 fastball into center field. Kyle Stackpole, Howard County Times, "Marriotts Ridge junior Josh Olsufka captures baseball Player of the Year," 20 June 2018 That’s because a lot of hitters who face shifts aren’t great bunters, and the Royals don’t believe those hitters will attempt a bunt with one strike and risk fouling it off or missing the pitch entirely. Lee Judge Special To The Star, kansascity, "The Royals get shifty: a handy guide to infield positioning | The Kansas City Star," 11 Apr. 2018 Facing Toronto Blue Jays right-hander John Axford, Mancini swung at a first-pitch, 94.5-mph fastball, fouling it off the top hand on his bat. Eduardo A. Encina,, "Orioles outfielder Trey Mancini hit by 95-mph fastball in hand, remains in game," 11 Apr. 2018 With four seconds left, McNair fouled Billings guard Rylee Kane, who calmly hit both free throws to put her team ahead, 71-70. Beth Bragg, Anchorage Daily News, "Billings makes all the right plays in final seconds to end UAA’s season," 13 Mar. 2018 Brown drove for a layup in the closing seconds of the third quarter and Texas' Jordan Hosey fouled her hard. Cliff Brunt, San Antonio Express-News, "Brown leads No. 3 Baylor past No. 7 Texas in Big 12 final," 5 Mar. 2018 Serbian referee Milorad Mazic was having none of Neymar’s antics, ignoring numerous protests that he had been fouled. Kevin Baxter,, "Neymar's fall leaves World Cup without a superstar," 7 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb

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 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

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

5 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).


a tendency to relapse

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