adjective ful·some \ˈfu̇l-səm\

Definition of fulsome

  1. 1a :  characterized by abundance :  copious describes in fulsome detail — G. N. Shuster fulsome bird life. The feeder overcrowded — Maxine Kuminb :  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 Grayc :  being full and well developed she was in generally fulsome, limpid voice — Thor Eckert, Jr.

  2. 2 :  aesthetically, morally, or generally offensive fulsome lies and nauseous flattery — William Congreve the devil take thee for a … fulsome rogue — George Villiers

  3. 3 :  exceeding the bounds of good taste :  overdone the fulsome chromium glitter of the escalators dominating the central hall — Lewis Mumford

  4. 4 :  excessively complimentary or flattering :  effusive an admiration whose extent I did not express, lest I be thought fulsome — A. J. Liebling





fulsome was our Word of the Day on 11/21/2015. Hear the podcast!

Using 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

  1. the player's fulsome praise for the coach showed just how hard he was trying to be named captain of the team

  2. 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


adjective ful·some \ˈfu̇l-səm\

Definition of fulsome for English Language Learners

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

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up fulsome? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a trip made at another's expense

Get Word of the Day daily email!


Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!

Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.