\ 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
2 : foul ball
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
a : decompose, rot
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 foul (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 Creighton has gotten to the line far less frequently and is averaging only 15.7 foul shots per game (ranked 257th). Mark Heim |, al, "Gonzaga-Creighton live stream (3/28): How to watch March Madness’ Sweet 16 online, TV, time," 28 Mar. 2021 Thompson lived and thrived at the stripe, making 15 of 16 foul shots. oregonlive, "Oregon State continues its dream run, off to Sweet 16 after bouncing Oklahoma State 80-70," 22 Mar. 2021 Texas went nearly four minutes without scoring before two free throws by Jones with 56 seconds left — foul shots that needed a pause to clean blood off the court. Tim Booth, Chron, "Abilene Christian stuns Longhorns in NCAA tourney stunner," 21 Mar. 2021 Dixie made all six of its foul shots after that, with senior Jason Summe and junior Jay Flynn sinking both ends of a one-and-one bonus. James Weber, The Enquirer, "Kentucky high school basketball: Dixie Heights beats second-ranked St. Henry for district title," 20 Mar. 2021 The Celtics only took four foul shots the entire game. Adam Himmelsbach,, "Jazz fend off Celtics, 117-109," 16 Mar. 2021 The 81% free throw shooter sank both foul shots, to put the Longhorns ahead for good as Tech would not be able to get a shot off in the ensuing inbound pass. Dallas News, "3 takeaways from Texas Tech’s Big 12 quarterfinal loss to Texas," 12 Mar. 2021 The two teams combined to make their first 24 foul shots before Cardoso finally missed late in the third quarter. Steve Reed, Star Tribune, "Evans, Cochran lead No. 5 Louisville into ACC finals, 72-59," 6 Mar. 2021 The teams last went at it on Feb. 6, when Duke made only four foul shots on seven attempts while the Tar Heels went 13 for 22 en route to the 91-87 victory. Tim Bielik, cleveland, "North Carolina vs. Duke free live stream (3/6/21): How to watch, odds, live updates," 6 Mar. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun At the other end, McCollum drove inside and found Derrick Jones Jr., who dunked over Duncan Robinson, who was called for a foul. oregonlive, "Damian Lillard’s late free throws and CJ McCollum’s 35 points lead Portland Trail Blazers to 125-122 win at Miami Heat: Game rewind," 26 Mar. 2021 Then getting back defensively, seeing Dickinson rolling to the basket and trying to strip the ball — only to bring his arms down for a foul on the big man and get plowed through for the score, falling backward into the basket padding. Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan State basketball's Joshua Langford atones for late mistakes with critical shot," 8 Mar. 2021 There are moments when there are some curious events, like when Gobert long ago complained about the refereeing on one occasion and then was called for a foul on the opening tip of the next game. Gordon Monson, The Salt Lake Tribune, "Gordon Monson: Donovan, Rudy, Mike and the rest of the Utah Jazz, should stop crying and stay focused on winning," 4 Mar. 2021 On the ensuing possession, Young beat Michael Carter-Williams into the lane and Carter-Williams was called for a foul. Roy Parry,, "Host Magic squander big lead as Hawks hit 3-pointers for comeback win," 3 Mar. 2021 Star guard Ja Morant was ejected late in the fourth quarter after arguing for a foul. Andrew Greif, Los Angeles Times, "Kawhi Leonard and Clippers get back on track in dominating win over Grizzlies," 26 Feb. 2021 Coming into the game, most expected a goal fest and those expectations were heightened when Atalanta midfielder Remo Freuler was sent off after only 17 minutes for a foul on Mendy. Matias Grez, CNN, "Real Madrid breaks Atalanta hearts with late goal after controversial red card," 24 Feb. 2021 Steve Alford dove for a loose ball, tied up a Purdue player and was called for a foul. Gregg Doyel, USA TODAY, "Doyel: The quest for a legendary relic — Bob Knight's red chair," 24 Feb. 2021 Herb Jones missed a layup the first possession and then was blocked under the rim on the second trip, with the senior forward looking for a foul in the aftermath. Mike Rodak |, al, "Alabama’s wild late-game comeback falls short at Missouri for first SEC loss," 6 Feb. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The officials reviewed the video, which revealed that Covington in fact did not foul Harden, who went to the floor after making contact with Covington. oregonlive, "Portland Trail Blazers unable to find late-game magic during 116-112 loss to Brooklyn Nets: Game rewind," 24 Mar. 2021 Troy was forced to foul, and Pitts made both free throws to ice an 84-80 victory. Creg Stephenson |, al, "Troy women fall to Texas A&M after controversial backcourt no-call," 23 Mar. 2021 Anthony pulled his team within 57-55 of the Falcons, but Lutheran East found ways to beat the defensive traps and force its opponent to foul. Matt Goul, cleveland, "State champions again, Lutheran East holds off Worthington Christian for Division III title," 21 Mar. 2021 The Gators then allowed red-hot Hokies guard Nahiem Alleyne to drive down the court and hit the game-tying 3-pointer with two seconds left in regulation rather than foul him. Edgar Thompson,, "Gators aim to end run of NCAA Tournament Cinderella Oral Roberts," 20 Mar. 2021 But at this point, Bowling Green had to foul three times just to force free throws. Kirkland Crawford, Detroit Free Press, "Central Michigan women's basketball wins MAC tournament, earns NCAA tournament bid," 13 Mar. 2021 Illinois, Watts went 1-for-10 and sat almost all of the final 11:28 against Ohio State until returning on offense with 14 seconds remaining and the Buckeyes looking to foul. Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan State basketball's Foster Loyer could need season-ending shoulder surgery," 27 Feb. 2021 Oklahoma State’s Keylan Boone, a 54% free throw shooter, was the guy Tech wanted to foul, but the big man stepped up when needed, sinking two free throws with 14 seconds left to extend the lead back to three. Dallas News, "3 takeaways from No. 18 Texas Tech’s loss to Oklahoma State: Why Red Raider fans should not fret, yet," 23 Feb. 2021 SFU’s Bryce Laskey missed a pair of free throws, but Chong Qui was off the mark on a 3-point attempt, and the Mount had to foul Myles Thompson, who hit the first, but missed the second free throw to make it 61-57 with 21.9 seconds remaining. Staff Report,, "Late surge lifts Mount St. Mary’s men’s basketball past Saint Francis in overtime," 26 Feb. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb Ivica Zubac started and played 35 minutes, his most as a Clipper — and, in something of a minor miracle, was called for only one foul. Los Angeles Times, "Column: Tyronn Lue pushes all the right buttons in Clippers’ win at Dallas," 15 Mar. 2021 Michigan coach Juwan Howard showed his displeasure and wanted a flagrant foul called on the play — but the only call the Wolverines got was a technical foul against their bench. Steve Megargee, ajc, "Back from layoff, No. 3 Michigan tops No. 21 Wisconsin 67-59," 14 Feb. 2021 After his long fly ball curled foul with the bases loaded, 2B Nick Solak ended up striking out with the bases loaded to end the third inning. Evan Grant, Dallas News, "Khris Davis’ typical spring struggles leaves Rangers with difficult opening day roster decision to make," 15 Mar. 2021 Kaufman-Renn’s early foul forced Hoffman to put Jacobi on 6-foot-9 Evansville commit Blake Sisley for most of the first half. David J. Kim, The Courier-Journal, "No. 2 Silver Creek beats No. 4 Heritage Hills to advance to Class 3A regional final," 14 Mar. 2021 That foul was the end of the day for Baron Davis, who scored 16 points for UCLA. Matthew Glenesk, The Indianapolis Star, "There have been 97 NCAA tournament games in Indianapolis since 1940. We rank them all.," 13 Mar. 2021 DH Christian Walker narrowly missed a home run on a ball that was just foul in left field. Nick Piecoro, The Arizona Republic, "Arizona Diamondbacks first-base coach Dave McKay on mend after dugout fall," 13 Mar. 2021 The refs blew some calls, worst among them the offensive hooking foul whistled on Mitchell that should have been called in the exact opposite way, Ben Simmons having unrighteously hooked Mitchell in a most critical moment of the game. Gordon Monson, The Salt Lake Tribune, "Gordon Monson: Donovan, Rudy, Mike and the rest of the Utah Jazz, should stop crying and stay focused on winning," 4 Mar. 2021 The momentum turned after Cooper was called for an off-the-ball charge followed by a shooting foul on Auburn. Giana Han, al, "Auburn loses first overtime in 10 overtime games in physical battle," 6 Feb. 2021

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

31 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Foul.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 Apr. 2021.

Style: MLA
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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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