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Synonyms & Antonyms of foul

(Entry 1 of 2)

1 marked by wet and windy conditions
  • the foul weather brought out the windbreakers and rain slickers as everyone braced for a day of rough sailing

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2 not being in accordance with the rules or standards of what is fair in sport
  • an aggressive hockey player who is known for his foul play and readiness for a fight

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3 causing intense displeasure, disgust, or resentment
  • a foul taste that made us gag

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5 having an unpleasant smell
  • the foul fumes from the paper mill

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foul

verb

Synonyms & Antonyms of foul (Entry 2 of 2)

1 to make dirty
  • the mechanic fouled the bath towels with axle grease

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2 to make unfit for use by the addition of something harmful or undesirable
  • industrial pollution fouling the water supply

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4 to go through decomposition
  • unless you want to smell the organic refuse as it fouls, locate the compost heap away from the house

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Frequently Asked Questions About foul

How does the adjective foul differ from other similar words?

Some common synonyms of foul are dirty, filthy, nasty, and squalid. While all these words mean "conspicuously unclean or impure," foul implies extreme offensiveness and an accumulation of what is rotten or stinking; it can also describe, for example, loathsome behavior.

a foul-smelling open sewer

a foul story of lust and greed

When can dirty be used instead of foul?

Although the words dirty and foul have much in common, dirty emphasizes the presence of dirt more than an emotional reaction to it or, figuratively, stresses meanness or despicableness.

a dirty littered street

don't ask me to do your dirty work

When could filthy be used to replace foul?

The meanings of filthy and foul largely overlap; however, filthy carries a strong suggestion of offensiveness and typically of gradually accumulated dirt that begrimes and besmears. Figuratively, it can also describe disgusting obscenity.

a stained greasy floor, utterly filthy

filthy street language

How is nasty related to other words for foul?

Nasty applies to what is actually foul or is repugnant to one expecting freshness, cleanliness, or sweetness; in practice, however, nasty is often weakened to the point of being no more than a synonym of unpleasant or disagreeable. When used figuratively, nasty implies a peculiarly offensive unpleasantness.

it's a nasty job to clean up after a sick cat

had a nasty fall

his answer gave her a nasty shock

a stand-up comedian known for nasty humor

When would squalid be a good substitute for foul?

In some situations, the words squalid and foul are roughly equivalent. However, squalid adds to the idea of dirtiness and filth that of slovenly neglect. Distinctively, its figurative use implies sordidness as well as baseness and dirtiness.

squalid slums

engaged in a series of squalid affairs

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Time Traveler for foul

Time Traveler

The first known use of foul was before the 12th century

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Cite this Entry

“Foul.” Merriam-Webster.com Thesaurus, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/foul. Accessed 23 Sep. 2020.

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More from Merriam-Webster on foul

Dictionary: Definition of foul

Nglish: Translation of foul for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of foul for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about foul

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