Definition of fulsome
1 a : 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>
Usage Discussion of fulsome
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.
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>
Did You Know?
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.
Origin and Etymology of fulsome
Middle English fulsom copious, cloying, from full + -som -some
First Known Use: 13th century
FULSOME Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of fulsome for English Language Learners
: expressing something (such as praise or thanks) in a very enthusiastic or emotional way
Seen and Heard
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