ful·​some | \ ˈfu̇l-səm How to pronounce fulsome (audio) \

Definition of fulsome

1a : characterized by abundance : copious describes in fulsome detail— G. N. Shuster fulsome bird life. The feeder overcrowded— Maxine Kumin
b : generous in amount, extent, or spirit the passengers were fulsome in praise of the plane's crew— Don Oliver a fulsome victory for the far left— Bruce Rothwell the greetings have been fulsome, the farewells tender— Simon Gray
c : being full and well developed she was in generally fulsome, limpid voice— Thor Eckert, Jr.
2 : aesthetically, morally, or generally offensive fulsome lies and nauseous flattery— William Congreve the devil take thee for a … fulsome rogue— George Villiers
3 : exceeding the bounds of good taste : overdone the fulsome chromium glitter of the escalators dominating the central hall— Lewis Mumford
4 : excessively complimentary or flattering : effusive an admiration whose extent I did not express, lest I be thought fulsome— A. J. Liebling

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Other Words from fulsome

fulsomely adverb
fulsomeness noun

Using Fulsome: Usage Guide

The senses shown above are the chief living senses of fulsome. Sense 2, which was a generalized term of disparagement in the late 17th century, is the least common of these. Fulsome became a point of dispute when sense 1, thought to be obsolete in the 19th century, began to be revived in the 20th. The dispute was exacerbated by the fact that the large dictionaries of the first half of the century missed the beginnings of the revival. Sense 1 has not only been revived but has spread in its application and continues to do so. The chief danger for the user of fulsome is ambiguity. Unless the context is made very clear, the reader or hearer cannot be sure whether such an expression as "fulsome praise" is meant in sense 1b or in sense 4.

You Don't Need to Get Negative About Fulsome

There is a lot of confusion about exactly what fulsome means. Some critics disapprove of using it in its original copious sense because they feel that sense is not negative enough; they say that fulsome should always be at least mildly deprecatory. It's true that today fulsome is often used pejoratively to describe overly effusive language, but modern English writers still sometimes use it simply to mean abundant, or occasionally even in contexts where it is complimentary. Some writers go to the more negative extreme, using it for things that are offensive to normal tastes or sensibilities. To avoid misinterpretation, either be sure that the context in which you use the word makes the intended meaning clear or choose a different word.

Examples of fulsome in a Sentence

the player's fulsome praise for the coach showed just how hard he was trying to be named captain of the team grateful survivors who were fulsome in their praise of the rescue team
Recent Examples on the Web Now, today, a more fulsome opening argument from the president's legal defense team. NBC News, "Transcript: The Bolton Facctor," 29 Jan. 2020 The objection to exporting fulsome intellectual property protection that supports our life sciences industry is not based on law or even on public policy. John E. Osborn, STAT, "Biologics lose protection as U.S.-Canada-Mexico trade agreement moves forward," 20 Dec. 2019 In the House, where congressional district boundary lines have been drawn in a way that leaves Republicans barely exposed to voters with centrist or left-leaning views, GOP leaders are mounting a more fulsome, if shifting, defense of Trump. BostonGlobe.com, "GOP isn’t showing a unified argument in impeachment inquiry against Trump and instead has many anwers - The Boston Globe," 10 Nov. 2019 In the House, where congressional district boundary lines have been drawn in a way that leaves Republicans barely exposed to voters with centrist or left-leaning views, GOP leaders are mounting a more fulsome, if shifting, defense of Trump. Lisa Mascaro, chicagotribune.com, "How Mitch McConnell is managing impeachment and a fragmenting Republican response," 9 Nov. 2019 Yet, according to the record of the call, Trump immediately followed a fulsome account of America’s support for Ukraine with a request for investigations of Democrats. Steve Coll, The New Yorker, "The Integrity of the Trump Impeachment Inquiry," 28 Sep. 2019 The two then walked out together to a roar from the diaspora, followed by (fulsome) expressions of mutual admiration as well as a political endorsement of each other. Sahil Wajid, Quartz India, "I was at the Howdy, Modi! rally, and it was not all cheers," 24 Sep. 2019 The advertisement for it, written by the artist himself, was naked in its desire for fulsome recognition. K.s.c., The Economist, "A blockbuster show at Tate Britain gives William Blake his due," 17 Sep. 2019 Orban, one of the fiercest critics of Merkel’s welcoming stance toward asylum-seekers during the 2015-2016 migrant influx, voiced fulsome appreciation for the German chancellor, whose country has close economic ties with Hungary. Washington Post, "German, Hungarian leaders commemorate ‘89 freedom picnic," 20 Aug. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'fulsome.' 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 fulsome

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for fulsome

Middle English fulsom copious, cloying, from full + -som -some

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Time Traveler for fulsome

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The first known use of fulsome was in the 14th century

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Last Updated

3 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Fulsome.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fulsome. Accessed 17 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for fulsome


How to pronounce fulsome (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of fulsome

formal : expressing something (such as praise or thanks) in a very enthusiastic or emotional way

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Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for fulsome

Spanish Central: Translation of fulsome

Nglish: Translation of fulsome for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of fulsome for Arabic Speakers

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