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 Trump, like many of his fellow cable news casualties, watches television in the same blank and fulsome way that dogs might be said to listen to music. David Roth, The New Republic, "The Littlest Prince," 17 Nov. 2020 Instacart plans to terminate about 1,900 employees’ jobs, including the only unionized positions in the United States, representing a fulsome embrace of the gig economy. BostonGlobe.com, "Opponents continue push against Maine power project," 21 Jan. 2021 On Friday, China finally issued a terse congratulations, which stood in stark contrast to the fulsome message sent four years earlier a day after President Donald Trump’s victory. NBC News, "As Biden's victory is hailed, some countries still silent a week later," 14 Nov. 2020 Everyone there honors Trump not just with their words and applause and fulsome laughter but through the shape their celebration takes. David Roth, The New Republic, "How Don Jr. Became the Future of Trumpism," 27 Oct. 2020 Trump delivered a constant, unhinged and fulsome pelting of dubious examples, strange retorts, immature insults and outright lies. Washington Post, "The first debate was among TV’s lowest moments — and in desperate need of an on-off switch for Trump’s mic," 30 Sep. 2020 That's how a thirty-something Donald Trump and a seventy-ish Richard Nixon struck up a decade-long, fulsome correspondence in the 1980s that meandered from football and real estate to Vietnam and media strategy. Nancy Benac, Star Tribune, "Dear Donald, Dear Mr. President: A Trump-Nixon '80s tale," 23 Sep. 2020 The report offered nine recommendations, including a fulsome government apology and the need for separate plans to meet the cost of providing additional care and support to those who have experienced avoidable harm. Washington Post, "UK review into NHS hits out at glacial response to concerns," 8 July 2020 Recently, Biden embraced a more fulsome effort to help Americans address student debt. Bo Erickson, CBS News, "Which women could be Joe Biden's running mate?," 19 May 2020

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 Time Traveler

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

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Last Updated

1 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Fulsome.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fulsome. Accessed 8 Mar. 2021.

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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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