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[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. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for afoul
Historical Examples
  • He must have got afoul of the enemy's horse, and been obliged to beat it off.

    The Brigade Commander J. W. Deforest
  • 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
  • One would think that they were afraid the old earth itself might be buffeted off its course and fall afoul of neighboring planets.

    Journeys to Bagdad

    Charles S. Brooks
  • They were so thick that many appeared to be afoul of one another; now all standing on this tack, now on that.

    Cape Cod Henry D. Thoreau
  • 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
  • What infernal notion is afoul of you, Orne, grabbing for my money before you report?

  • And even when the feller got afoul of him, the chances are the old land-pirut would steal the brick.

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

  • 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.

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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