\ ˈfau̇(-ə)l How to pronounce foul (audio) \

Definition of foul

 (Entry 1 of 4)

1a : offensive to the senses : loathsome the foul odor of rotten eggs
b : filled or covered with offensive matter foul bins of filth
2 : being odorous and impure : polluted foul air
3a : morally or spiritually odious : detestable a foul crime
b : notably unpleasant or distressing : wretched, horrid in a foul mood
4 : obscene, abusive foul language
5a : being wet and stormy foul weather
b : obstructive to navigation a foul tide
6a : treacherous, dishonorable fair means or foul
b : constituting an infringement (see infringe sense 1) of rules in a game or sport a foul blow in boxing
7 : being outside the foul lines in baseball … a foul fly that was snagged by a fan in the stands.— E. M. Swift
8 : containing marked-up corrections a foul manuscript foul proofs
9 : full of dirt or mud
10 : encrusted, clogged, or choked with a foreign substance the chimney was foul and smoked badly
11 : placed in a situation that impedes physical movement : entangled a foul fishing line
12 dialectal British : homely, ugly



Definition of foul (Entry 2 of 4)

1a : an infringement of the rules in a game or sport
2 : foul ball
3 : an entanglement or collision especially in angling or sailing
4 archaic : something foul


fouled; fouling; fouls

Definition of foul (Entry 3 of 4)

transitive verb

1 : to make foul: such as
a : to make dirty : pollute
b : to tangle or come into collision with
c : to encrust with a foreign substance a ship's bottom fouled with barnacles
3 : to commit a foul against
4 : to hit (a baseball) foul

intransitive verb

1 : to commit a violation of the rules in a sport or game
2 : to hit a foul ball
3 : to become or be foul: such as
a : decompose, rot
b : to become encrusted, clogged, or choked with a foreign substance
c : to become entangled or come into collision



Definition of foul (Entry 4 of 4)

: in a foul manner : so as to be foul

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from foul


foully \ ˈfau̇(l)-​lē How to pronounce foul (audio) \ adverb
foulness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for foul

Synonyms: Adjective

Synonyms: Verb

Antonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Verb

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Choose the Right Synonym for foul


dirty, filthy, foul, nasty, squalid mean conspicuously unclean or impure. dirty emphasizes the presence of dirt more than an emotional reaction to it. a dirty littered street filthy carries a strong suggestion of offensiveness and typically of gradually accumulated dirt that begrimes and besmears. a stained greasy floor, utterly filthy foul implies extreme offensiveness and an accumulation of what is rotten or stinking. a foul-smelling open sewer nasty applies to what is actually foul or is repugnant to one expecting freshness, cleanliness, or sweetness. it's a nasty job to clean up after a sick cat In practice, nasty is often weakened to the point of being no more than a synonym of unpleasant or disagreeable. had a nasty fall his answer gave her a nasty shock squalid adds to the idea of dirtiness and filth that of slovenly neglect. squalid slums All these terms are also applicable to moral uncleanness or baseness or obscenity. dirty then stresses meanness or despicableness don't ask me to do your dirty work , while filthy and foul describe disgusting obscenity or loathsome behavior filthy street language a foul story of lust and greed , and nasty implies a peculiarly offensive unpleasantness. a stand-up comedian known for nasty humor Distinctively, squalid implies sordidness as well as baseness and dirtiness. engaged in a series of squalid affairs

Examples of foul in a Sentence

Adjective the foul odor of rotten eggs The medicine left a foul taste in my mouth. The weather has been foul all week. Noun He hit several fouls in a row. Verb pollutants that foul the air She fouled on her first long jump attempt. He was fouled as he attempted the shot. He kept fouling pitches into the stands.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The last thing the Blazers need is for Nurkic to find frequent foul trouble. oregonlive, 19 Oct. 2021 But until Duncan Robinson can play without needing defensive help (including help in avoiding foul trouble), there likely will remain a degree of defensive scrambling. Ira Winderman,, 31 Aug. 2021 Brionna Jones led all scorers with 23 points, while Jonquel Jones added 22 despite dealing with foul trouble much of the game. Alexa Philippou,, 27 Aug. 2021 Doncic had foul trouble early and shooting struggles all night but finished with 12 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists, one shy of the first triple-double since LeBron James had one for the U.S. in 2012. Brian Mahoney, Star Tribune, 1 Aug. 2021 Devin Booker watched far too much basketball from the bench, but Team USA has more than enough scorers to make up for him being riddled with foul trouble at Tokyo Olympics. Duane Rankin, The Arizona Republic, 31 July 2021 Residents posted on social media, wondering whether the foul smell was a byproduct of exhaust from overhead planes. Los Angeles Times, 4 Oct. 2021 With two out in the sixth inning, shortstop Gio Urshela charged toward the third base dugout for a sinking foul pop from Austin Meadows. New York Times, 3 Oct. 2021 But a personal-foul penalty on 1st-and-goal hurt the Ducks, who ultimately settled for a game-tying field goal. Ron Kroichick, San Francisco Chronicle, 2 Oct. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun That big play Saturday came in stoppage time when Efraín Álvarez was taken down in the penalty area by Portland defender Josecarlos Van Rankin, drawing a foul. Kevin Baxter, Los Angeles Times, 19 Oct. 2021 Booker, coming off leading the Phoenix Suns to the NBA Finals, hit 2-of-3 free throws after drawing a foul on Los Angeles Clippers forward Nicolas Batum on a 3-point attempt to give USA a 74-67 lead with 3:41 remaining in the game. Duane Rankin, The Arizona Republic, 26 July 2021 While turning toward the net, she was clipped at her ankles and taken down, drawing a foul inside the box. oregonlive, 10 July 2021 Middleton again responded, drawing a foul on Harris while shooting a 3-pointer and making all three free throws. Steve Megargee, Star Tribune, 18 June 2021 Middleton again responded, drawing a foul on Harris while shooting a 3-pointer and making all three free throws. Steve Megargee, ajc, 18 June 2021 After the game, a viral video clip appeared to show Doncic directing some not-safe-for-a-family-newspaper language at Beverley after overpowering him for a first-quarter basket and drawing a foul. Callie Caplan, Dallas News, 23 May 2021 Yellow cards started showing up for LouCity, starting first with McMahon in the 57th minute after drawing a foul for sliding into Legion forward Neco Brett. Jonathan Saxon, The Courier-Journal, 9 May 2021 Mitchell waited for a defender to bite near the 3-point line and exploded past him with his left hand, finishing at the rim and drawing a foul. Michael Mccleary, The Indianapolis Star, 30 Mar. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Most are rigged with two or three sets of treble hooks, and the dangling trebles can foul shallow or floating grass. Joe Doggett, Chron, 14 Oct. 2021 Lange got ahead 0-2 in the count, throwing back-to-back fastballs that Abreu could only foul away. Evan Petzold, Detroit Free Press, 27 Sep. 2021 Instead of hoping for an easy route to the title, Pickering said his son was happy to see Kazmaier not foul on his third jump., 10 July 2021 On Montana's Fort Belknap Reservation, tribal president Andy Werk Jr. described the end of Keystone as a relief to Native Americans who stood against it out of concerns a line break could foul the Missouri River or other waterways. Matthew Brown, Star Tribune, 9 June 2021 So, with the invisible, ubiquitous tenacity of Lewis Carrol's Cheshire cat, the pollution will foul our atmosphere -- and overheat the globe -- far into the 22nd century. James Gerstenzang, CNN, 1 Aug. 2021 Calling their final timeout after the George made free throws, Jae Crowder inbounded the ball to Dario Saric, a career 84% free throw shooter, but the Clippers didn't foul. Duane Rankin, The Arizona Republic, 28 June 2021 The Red Wings’ Brandon Snyder then cracked a three-run homer, and the next batter, Jakson Reetz, hit a ground ball foul down the third-base line. Alyssa Hertel, USA TODAY, 4 Aug. 2021 But Ober got Eaton to swing and miss at a fastball up in the strike zone, then foul off another in the heart of the plate. Phil Miller, Star Tribune, 19 May 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb As the city of Oceanside prepares to clear out a second homeless encampment three weeks after removing about 40 people from another site, a San Diego attorney is crying foul and asking for a meeting. Gary Warth, San Diego Union-Tribune, 3 May 2021 The contract snub prompted some Ohio lawmakers, including U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown to cry foul. Alexander Coolidge, The Enquirer, 16 Sep. 2021 Additionally, the governor's visit to the French Laundry restaurant in the middle of these orders last November caused many to cry foul. Megan Leonhardt, Fortune, 15 Sep. 2021 Then this year brought new charges, and the defense is crying foul. Tresa Baldas, Detroit Free Press, 15 Sep. 2021 The fact the nation's pastime may have a hand in outsourcing jobs has residents crying foul. Kris Van Cleave, CBS News, 6 Sep. 2021 The green light comes eight months after the vaccine received emergency use authorization, a swiftness which has some social media users crying foul. Miriam Fauzia, USA TODAY, 27 Aug. 2021 But forever, as sports — especially football and basketball — have started to earn big money for universities and athletic conferences, the athletes have been crying foul. Chris Hays,, 1 July 2021 That means the recall election could be held as early a late August or early September, which had many Republicans crying foul that Democratic state lawmakers were changing the rules to help Newsom. Paul Steinhauser, Fox News, 14 June 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'foul.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of foul


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 3


13th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for foul

Adjective and Noun

Middle English, from Old English fūl; akin to Old High German fūl rotten, Latin pus pus, putēre to stink, Greek pyon pus

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More About foul

Time Traveler for foul

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near foul



foul anchor

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for foul

Last Updated

21 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Foul.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Oct. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon
Seen & Heard
People are talking about

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for foul



English Language Learners Definition of foul

 (Entry 1 of 3)

: very unpleasant to taste or smell
: morally bad : very evil
: very bad or unpleasant



English Language Learners Definition of foul (Entry 2 of 3)

: an action that is against the rules and for which a player is given a penalty
: a batted ball that lands outside the foul lines : a foul ball



English Language Learners Definition of foul (Entry 3 of 3)

: to make (a substance, place, etc.) dirty
: to commit a foul
: to commit a foul against (another player)


\ ˈfau̇l How to pronounce foul (audio) \
fouler; foulest

Kids Definition of foul

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 : disgusting in looks, taste, or smell In the warm months, a foul odor rose …— Kate DiCamillo, The Tale of Despereaux
2 : full of or covered with something that pollutes foul air
3 : being vulgar or insulting foul language
4 : being wet and stormy foul weather
5 : very unfair She would even use foul methods to get what she wanted.
6 : very unpleasant or bad a foul mood
7 : breaking a rule in a game or sport The boxer was warned for using a foul punch.
8 : being outside the foul lines He hit a foul ball.



Kids Definition of foul (Entry 2 of 3)

1 : a ball in baseball that is batted outside the foul lines
2 : an act of breaking the rules in a game or sport


fouled; fouling

Kids Definition of foul (Entry 3 of 3)

1 : to make or become foul or filthy foul the air foul a stream
2 : to make a foul in a game

More from Merriam-Webster on foul

Nglish: Translation of foul for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of foul for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about foul


Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!