ful·​some | \ˈfu̇l-səm \

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 may have been a bit too fulsome in his praise, but there's really no dispute that Kim is an awful human being who kills and jails his opponents. Howard Kurtz, Fox News, "Trump's Singapore summit, a first step, being trashed by many pundits," 13 June 2018 Until the end of her life, Eunice would give fulsome credit to her brothers for initiatives that had been her ideas. Eileen Mcnamara, BostonGlobe.com, "How Eunice Kennedy Shriver parlayed her famous name into a legacy of public service," 27 Mar. 2018 There’s Trump’s habit of opening conversations with fulsome (and seemingly insincere) praise, his habit of saying everything is the greatest or the best. Andy Lewis, The Hollywood Reporter, "James Comey's 'A Higher Loyalty': Book Review," 16 Apr. 2018 The American and South Korean people have a right to know that behind the joint military exercises and fulsome summit rhetoric there is serious ideological disagreement here. Isaac Chotiner, Slate Magazine, "Sympathy for North Korea," 3 Jan. 2018 From my seat the balance favored Ma's fulsome tone by a slight margin; Ax's legato playing sounded a bit watery even with the lid on his Steinway fully opened. Richard S. Ginell, latimes.com, "Yo-Yo Ma, Leonidas Kavakos and Emanuel Ax: Brahms all-stars at Disney Hall," 5 Mar. 2018 When the accusations first surfaced, Mr. Kelly and others issued fulsome statements of support for their colleague. Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Katie Rogers And Maggie Haberman, New York Times, "Top Trump Aides Are Said to Have Long Known About Abuse Accusations," 8 Feb. 2018 Buckley had fulsome praise for right-wing dictators like Francisco Franco. Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, "Donald Trump Is the Most Pure Conservative President Ever," 23 Feb. 2018 His fulsome praise shimmered online like spun gold. Stu Bykofsky, Philly.com, "Boston columnist U-turns on his love for Philly | Stu Bykofsky," 24 Jan. 2018

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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Fulton cat

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

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English Language Learners Definition of fulsome

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on fulsome

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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a private place of worship

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