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

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 Smith responded in turn with a more fulsome apology. Los Angeles Times, 28 Mar. 2022 Antony nonetheless receives a eulogy from Professor Strauss scarcely less fulsome than Cleopatra’s. Andrew Roberts, National Review, 3 Mar. 2022 Fox said giving the defense access to a fulsome database and also specifically identifying information that might be relevant to their case echoes what federal prosecutors have done on other complicated cases with multiple defendants. Los Angeles Times, 11 Mar. 2022 Like many aspects of a relationship, communication before any deception occurs, as well fulsome communication after the revelation of deception, are critical. Michael Taylor, San Antonio Express-News, 9 Feb. 2022 With the inflation cycle having arrived, fulsome analysis is critical. John S. Tobey, Forbes, 28 Dec. 2021 But Borick warned that the GOP’s fulsome embrace of Rittenhouse wasn’t without risk. Aamer Madhani, ajc, 20 Nov. 2021 There was a lot of speechmaking about freedom, mirroring previous debates in the United States, and fulsome paeans to the importance of keeping the pubs open during the holiday season. Washington Post, 14 Dec. 2021 News of robust Netflix expansion in Brazil comes as U.S streamers have proved life rafts for the local industry whose once fulsome incentives have been slowed to a glacial pace under Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro. John Hopewell, Variety, 23 Nov. 2021 See More

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.

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

Learn More About fulsome

Time Traveler for fulsome

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near fulsome




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for fulsome

Last Updated

18 Apr 2022

Cite this Entry

“Fulsome.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fulsome. Accessed 18 May. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More from Merriam-Webster on fulsome

Nglish: Translation of fulsome for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of fulsome for Arabic Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Eponyms: Words Named After People

How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!