ful·​some ˈfu̇l-səm How to pronounce fulsome (audio)
: characterized by abundance : copious
describes in fulsome detailG. N. Shuster
fulsome bird life. The feeder overcrowdedMaxine Kumin
: generous in amount, extent, or spirit
the passengers were fulsome in praise of the plane's crewDon Oliver
a fulsome victory for the far leftBruce Rothwell
the greetings have been fulsome, the farewells tenderSimon Gray
: being full and well developed
she was in generally fulsome, limpid voiceThor Eckert, Jr.
: aesthetically, morally, or generally offensive
fulsome lies and nauseous flatteryWilliam Congreve
the devil take thee for a … fulsome rogueGeorge Villiers
: exceeding the bounds of good taste : overdone
the fulsome chromium glitter of the escalators dominating the central hallLewis Mumford
: excessively complimentary or flattering : effusive
an admiration whose extent I did not express, lest I be thought fulsomeA. J. Liebling
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.

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You Don't Need to Get Negative About Fulsome

In the 19th century, fulsome was mostly a literary term used disapprovingly to describe excessive, insincere praise and flattery. This meaning is still current, but since the early 20th century fulsome has been increasingly used with far more positive meanings, among them “abundant, copious” and “full and well developed.” The result is some amount of confusion: a phrase like “fulsome praise” used today without clarifying context may rightly be understood to mean either “abundant praise” or “excessive and obsequious praise.” While some critics object to the pleasanter meanings of fulsome, they are in fact true to the word’s origins: when it was first used in the 14th century fulsome meant “abundant, copious.”

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 Neeson, unlike almost any other action star, is a fulsome enough actor to show you Matt’s desperation, the way that this is all weighing on him. Owen Gleiberman, Variety, 23 Aug. 2023 Well, your degree is not as fulsome, your experience hasn’t been as fulsome because there are really no Asians in your class? Henry Gass, The Christian Science Monitor, 5 Apr. 2023 Tension over trade deals His administration’s unwillingness to authorize a fulsome trade deal for the U.K. has been a continued source of frustration, however. USA TODAY, 9 July 2023 After all, there are a number of ways to have fun and fulsome summer experiences, locally, without going broke. Felice León, Essence, 15 June 2023 There’s a richness that permeates from behind the speaker grille and fills the room with music that’s omnidirectional and fulsome but without ever distorting. Mark Sparrow, Forbes, 7 Nov. 2021 As the market grows, the offerings will become more fulsome, and the ways of participating will become more varied and creative. Eric Bergner, The Hollywood Reporter, 7 June 2023 If only for the breadth of this year’s official selection, Annecy looks set to for its most fulsome and abundant edition. John Hopewell, Variety, 27 Apr. 2023 The EarFun Air Pro 2 are fitted with 10mm titanium composite drivers that produce a wonderfully clear and detailed sound with a well-articulated and fulsome bass. Mark Sparrow, Forbes, 5 Sep. 2021 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'fulsome.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

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

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


Dictionary Entries Near fulsome

Cite this Entry

“Fulsome.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fulsome. Accessed 23 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


ful·​some ˈfu̇l-səm How to pronounce fulsome (audio)
: very full or complete
described in fulsome detail
: very or overly flattering
praised the boss in fulsome terms
fulsomely adverb
fulsomeness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on fulsome

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