\ 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 Bonner split a pair of free throws with 14.2 seconds left and Griner made two foul shots with 8.5 seconds left to seal the victory. Arizona Republic, azcentral, "Phoenix Mercury hold off Dallas Wings again," 20 July 2019 Walker, who hit a pair of foul shots in the closing seconds to help Xavier hang on 74-71, said the crowd that day was unforgettable. Adam Baum, Cincinnati.com, "This season marks the 30th anniversary of Xavier's first trip to the Sweet 16," 11 July 2019 His ashes were spread on Wrigley Field, near the foul pole that flies a flag memorializing his retired No. Kori Rumore And Chad Yoder, chicagotribune.com, "New George Halas and Walter Payton statues at Soldier Field will join these 23 other sports figures around Chicago," 20 Aug. 2019 The Chicago White Sox host the Miami Marlins at Guaranteed Rate Field, where the netting now runs from the ends of each dugout down to the foul poles on each side of the field of play. Jill Martin, CNN, "Cleveland shortstop Francisco Lindor calls for more netting after child struck by line drive," 22 July 2019 What Leonard does is provide a sort of Olynyk 2.0 when Kelly either isn’t available or in foul trouble. Ira Winderman, sun-sentinel.com, "ASK IRA: Is Chris Paul an upgrade on Dragic, Winslow?," 14 July 2019 Rookie Teaira McCowan bounced back from early foul trouble, finishing with 11 points and seven rebounds. Akeem Glaspie, Indianapolis Star, "Fever overcome 22-point deficit before losing late to Lynx," 26 June 2019 Green retired Matt Chapman and Matt Olson on foul popups before Mark Canha’s infield single scored Profar to push the lead to 5-1. Ron Kroichick, SFChronicle.com, "Khris Davis goes deep as A’s stay hot; A.J. Puk makes big-league debut," 21 Aug. 2019 The comic was an exercise in blasphemous nastiness, and over four seasons, the television show has taken that foul baton and gleefully run with it. Noah Berlatsky, The Verge, "Preacher is unwatched, unloved, and doomed — but Tulip O’Hare goes on," 14 Aug. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun That led Democrats to cry foul, saying the Lamont administration was going against the legislative intent of the new law. Russell Blair, courant.com, "Gov. Ned Lamont asks for review of new tax on ice cream, pizza and other items sold at grocery stores," 17 Sep. 2019 The banking industry, retirees and even mainstream economists would cry foul. Matt Egan, CNN, "Trump calls for subzero interest rates. That could backfire," 11 Sep. 2019 But some chains like Chipotle are crying foul, saying the stuff is too processed for their delicate tastes. Wired, "Let's All Just Chill About Processed Foods," 9 Sep. 2019 But a very vocal segment of her fan base cried foul, launching an online #FreeBritney movement that challenged the idea that Spears still needs her father controlling her business and personal affairs. Martha Ross, The Mercury News, "Britney Spears’ troubles continue: Singer moves to protect sons from her father after alleged abuse," 4 Sep. 2019 The Dynamo's Jose Bizama had been whistled for a foul in the box. Staff Reports, Houston Chronicle, "Dynamo fall 5-1 at FC Dallas," 25 Aug. 2019 The incident which caught Krieger ire and other Orlando Pride players came in the 83rd minute after defender Kristen Edmonds was called for a foul while battling for the ball in the box, triggering a penalty kick. Luis Torres, Pro Soccer USA, "Orlando Pride star Ali Krieger rips referees, NWSL following loss to Houston," 12 Aug. 2019 Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer continue to cry foul, while the humanitarian crisis worsens each day. James Barragán, Dallas News, "Texas to send 1,000 National Guard troops to Mexico border to deal with 'escalating crisis'," 21 June 2019 The final 10 minutes were some redemption for Fowles, who sat for more than six minutes after her fourth foul early in the third quarter. Mike Cook, Twin Cities, "Lynx beat Chicago to clinch playoff berth," 27 Aug. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Via the Susquehanna River, the state is a major source of nutrient and sediment pollution fouling the bay. Baltimore Sun Staff, baltimoresun.com, "Hogan avoids confrontation but rejects idea that Maryland should pay Pennsylvania to clean the Chesapeake Bay," 5 Sep. 2019 Pitchers also must contend with the two-strike bunt, which the Ducks’ D’Arby Myers tried — and fouled into the stands — before popping out against the Bees’ Devin Burke on Tuesday. Tyler Kepner, New York Times, "‘We’re Lab Rats’: A Baseball League Where Stealing First Is O.K.," 2 Aug. 2019 One example came against Deerfield as Sarancic drove to the basket and made a layup while getting fouled. Lamond Pope, Lake County News-Sun, "'He's ready to score': Adnan Sarancic continues growth as a go-to player in crunch time for Warren," 7 June 2019 Luis Suárez created Barcelona's first real opportunity of the match but was denied at the near post by Roman Bürki, but the visitors handed Borussia Dortmund the chance to take the lead when Nélson Semedo fouled Sancho in the penalty area. SI.com, "Dortmund 0-0 Barcelona: Report, Ratings & Reaction as Ter Stegen Penalty Heroics Deny Hosts," 17 Sep. 2019 Sunday: The Cardinals lost in about the most heartbreaking way possible as Milwaukee Brewers OF Ryan Braun fouled off a strike three and then hit a grand slam to send the Brewers to a dramatic victory. Chris Wassel, USA TODAY Sportsbook Wire, "Washington Nationals at St. Louis Cardinals odds, picks and best bets," 16 Sep. 2019 Starry stonewort can grow in water depths of up to nearly 20 feet, out-competes other vegetation and can foul watercraft motors. Evan Frank, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "An invasive species called starry stonewort has spread to Lake Country waters," 16 Sep. 2019 Kevin Hernandez scored the game’s only goal in the second half on a free kick after Hammond was fouled at the top of the box. Brent Kennedy, baltimoresun.com, "Howard varsity roundup (Sept. 10): River Hill, Centennial golf earn sweeps to stay undefeated," 11 Sep. 2019 The crowd even cheered when Cueto fouled off a two-strike pitch in his first at-bat. Henry Schulman, SFChronicle.com, "Giants’ Johnny Cueto one-hits Pirates over 5 innings in victorious return," 10 Sep. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb No harm, no foul Despite their impressive size, humpback whales are filter feeders who gulp down krill and other plankton, as well as small fish like sardines, juvenile salmon, and herring. Sarah Keartes, National Geographic, "How a humpback whale ended up with a sea lion in its mouth," 30 July 2019 But, cut off from the rest of the city by the foul-smelling Washington City Canal, its isolated grounds attracted muggers and other scoundrels looking for easy prey. Smithsonian, "The Hard-Drinking Early Smithsonian Naturalists of the Megatherium Club," 4 Sep. 2019 The rookie slugger narrowly missed a grand slam down the right field line when a crew chief review determined the ball sliced just foul, upholding the initial call on the field. Kollin Miller, courant.com, "Mets beat Royals 4-1 behind deGrom, Alonso," 18 Aug. 2019 Replay appeared to show the ball go foul, but umpires ruled it a home run after review, anyway. Evan Webeck, The Mercury News, "A’s head into the break on sizzle," 7 July 2019 In the field: With one out in the ninth inning, Goodrum — who has limited experience playing first base — let a slow roller go foul. Anthony Fenech, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Tigers' win streak ends after loss to Kansas City Royals, 3-2," 20 Apr. 2018 The Giants second baseman clearly thought his two-out, high fly ball down the right-field line was going foul. Mike Digiovanna, latimes.com, "Joe Panik's homer gives Giants a 1-0 lead," 30 Mar. 2018 Seattle spoiled 23 of his 98 pitches foul but swung and missed 16 times. Chandler Rome, ExpressNews.com, "Houston’s Justin Verlander becomes majors’ first 15-game winner as Astros beat Mariners," 4 Aug. 2019 Some huddled under a metal carport, sharing a foul-smelling bathroom and bathing with outdoor hoses. Los Angeles Times, "Stymied by U.S. asylum policies, many migrants on the border are heading home," 4 Aug. 2019

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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Statistics for foul

Last Updated

6 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for foul

The first known use of foul was before the 12th century

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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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