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90s Slang You Should Know


[uh-foul] /əˈfaʊl/
adverb, adjective
in a state of collision or entanglement:
a ship with its shrouds afoul.
run / come / fall afoul of,
  1. to become entangled with:
    The boat ran afoul of the seaweed.
  2. to come into conflict with:
    The business had fallen afoul of the new government regulations.
Origin of afoul
An Americanism dating back to 1800-10; a-1 + foul Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for afoul
Historical Examples
  • And even when the feller got afoul of him, the chances are the old land-pirut would steal the brick.

  • What infernal notion is afoul of you, Orne, grabbing for my money before you report?

  • Yes, marm; but 'tain't there now—the cattle got afoul of the pillar of salt one day, and licked it all up!

    The Humors of Falconbridge Jonathan F. Kelley
  • In youth he was so pious, that young and old were afraid to say afoul word in his presence.

  • The consequence of this was that we no sooner came Abreast of the reef in that locality than we got afoul of it.

  • If, like me, you can't pole a punt its length without running into a mud-bank or afoul of the bushes, then send for Fin.

    The Underdog F. Hopkinson Smith
  • Labe was sorry, too, I don't doubt, when his bedtime went by and he kept runnin' afoul of one of your mistakes after another.

    The Portygee Joseph Crosby Lincoln
  • Of course, every man was on his feet in a second, thinking we were all but afoul of another vessel.

  • Its reluctance was quite uncanny until E. Van Tenner observed that in some way the pencil had got afoul of the pocket flap.

    The Beggar's Purse Samuel Hopkins Adams
  • He must have got afoul of the enemy's horse, and been obliged to beat it off.

    The Brigade Commander J. W. Deforest
British Dictionary definitions for afoul


adverb, adjective (postpositive)
(usually foll by of) in or into a state of difficulty, confusion, or conflict (with)
(often foll by of) in or into an entanglement or collision (with) (often in the phrase run afoul of): a yacht with its sails afoul, the boat ran afoul of a steamer
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for afoul

"entangled," 1809, originally nautical, now mainly in phrase to run afoul of; from a- (1) + foul.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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