ful·​some | \ ˈfu̇l-səm How to pronounce fulsome (audio) \

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

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

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 Coldplay and Natalie Imbruglia paid fulsome tribute to Olivia Newton-John, who died last week, at London’s Wembley Stadium on Tuesday evening. Naman Ramachandran, Variety, 17 Aug. 2022 Photographs, by their very nature, can capture this frightening, fulsome dichotomy, and the best photographers can capture it again and again. Joy Williams, The New Yorker, 5 Aug. 2022 The letter from 81 Democratic lawmakers further adds to the pressure Biden has been facing from his party to mount a more fulsome response to conservative rollbacks and to channel the anger and fear that millions of women are feeling. Yasmeen Abutaleb, Anchorage Daily News, 13 July 2022 And while a few bottles didn’t quite measure up to the fulsome praise promoting them, others turned out to be even better than described. Lettie Teague, WSJ, 11 Aug. 2022 If the fulsome slates of some producers are anything to go by – DR’s Leticia Brea, Estonia’s Tallifornia and Kask Films, for instance – production is a going concern in countries outside traditional production centers. John Hopewell, Variety, 5 Aug. 2022 Earlier, Harry's brother Prince William had written to the young people to add his fulsome praise too. Simon Perry, PEOPLE.com, 1 July 2022 Despite the absence of the higher-quality AAC and aptX codecs, these earbuds have a fulsome sound with a bass-heavy feel, but the midrange is never squashed and there’s sufficient treble to bring focus to the music. Mark Sparrow, Forbes, 16 June 2022 There are fulsome discussions around ensuring a person with a juvenile record of violence or mental health struggles cannot get hold of such a weapon upon turning 18, when many juvenile records are expunged. Jennifer Haberkornstaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 9 June 2022 See More

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.

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

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Last Updated

9 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Fulsome.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fulsome. Accessed 24 Sep. 2022.

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