- grossly offensive to the senses; disgustingly loathsome; noisome: a foul smell.
- containing or characterized by offensive or noisome matter: foul air; foul stagnant water.
- filthy or dirty, as places, receptacles, clothes, etc.
- muddy, as a road.
- clogged or obstructed with foreign matter: a foul gas jet.
- unfavorable or stormy: foul weather.
- contrary, violent, or unfavorable, as the wind.
- grossly offensive in a moral sense.
- abominable, wicked, or vile, as deeds, crime, slander, etc.
- scurrilous, profane, or obscene; offensive: foul language.
- contrary to the rules or established usages, as of a sport or game; unfair: a foul blow.
- Baseball. pertaining to a foul ball or a foul line.
- limited in freedom of movement by obstruction, entanglement, etc.: a foul anchor.
- abounding in errors or in marks of correction, as a printer's proof, manuscript, or the like.
- (of the underwater portion of a hull) encrusted and impeded with barnacles, seaweed, etc.
- (of a mooring place) involving inconveniences and dangers, as of colliding with vessels or other objects when swinging with the tide.
- (of the bottom of a body of water) affording a poor hold for an anchor (opposed to clean).
- North England and Scot.. not fair; ugly or unattractive.
- Obsolete. disfigured.
- in a foul manner; vilely; unfairly.
- Baseball. into foul territory; so as to be foul: It looked like a homer when he hit it, but it went foul.
- something that is foul.
- a collision or entanglement: a foul between two racing sculls.
- a violation of the rules of a sport or game: The referee called it a foul.
- Baseball. foul ball.
- to make foul; defile; soil.
- to clog or obstruct, as a chimney or the bore of a gun.
- to collide with.
- to cause to become entangled or caught, as a rope.
- to defile; dishonor; disgrace: His reputation had been fouled by unfounded accusations.
- Nautical. (of barnacles, seaweed, etc.) to cling to (a hull) so as to encumber.
- Baseball. to hit (a pitched ball) foul (often followed by off or away): He fouled off two curves before being struck out on a fastball.
- to become foul.
- Nautical. to come into collision, as two boats.
- to become entangled or clogged: The rope fouled.
- Sports. to make a foul play; give a foul blow.
- Baseball. to hit a foul ball.
- foul out,
- Baseball.to be put out by hitting a foul ball caught on the fly by a player on the opposing team.
- Basketball.to be expelled from a game for having committed more fouls than is allowed.
- foul up, Informal. to cause confusion or disorder; bungle; spoil.
- fall foul/afoul of,
- to collide with, as ships.
- to come into conflict with; quarrel.
- to make an attack; assault.
- foul one's nest, to dishonor one's own home, family, or the like.
- run foul/afoul of, to come into collision or controversy with: to run foul of the press.
Origin of foul
SynonymsSee more synonyms on Thesaurus.com
Examples from the Web for foul
Father Joel Román Salazar died in a car crash in 2013; his death was ruled an accident, but the suspicion of foul play persists.Mexico’s Priests Are Marked for Murder
January 7, 2015
Miller took particular exception to a post in which Kelley had worried she might fall victim to foul play.The Mystery Woman Who Tried to Outdo Dillinger
September 29, 2014
She paints the current rodent situation as more than a foul inconvenience, and one that is a particular blight on poorer areas.Crowdsourcing NYC’s War on Rats
June 24, 2014
Shahid quietly asked her to lift a finger if foul play had been at work.Has Malala Become a Puppet of the West?
April 12, 2014
The two alleged ambassadors spiced their jokes with foul language.Just Joking? Bugged Russian Ambassadors Want to Annex Alaska and Miami
April 6, 2014
On that foul throng that wrought them wrong—on Jury and on Judge!
"Streams may spring from one source, and yet some be clear and some be foul," quoth she quickly.The White Company
Arthur Conan Doyle
What did you, then, when you snatched her from her home by some foul trick?Fair Margaret
H. Rider Haggard
That was, in fact, the only blot on his father's honour—a foul and grave blot it was.Night and Morning, Complete
A ship big enough to carry two in fair weather, but only one in foul.The Devil's Dictionary
- offensive to the senses; revolting
- offensive in odour; stinking
- charged with or full of dirt or offensive matter; filthy
- (of food) putrid; rotten
- morally or spiritually offensive; wicked; vile
- obscene; vulgarfoul language
- not in accordance with accepted standards or established rules; unfairto resort to foul means
- (esp of weather) unpleasant or adverse
- blocked or obstructed with dirt or foreign mattera foul drain
- entangled or impededa foul anchor
- (of the bottom of a vessel) covered with barnacles and other growth that slow forward motion
- informal unsatisfactory or uninteresting; bada foul book
- archaic ugly
- a violation of the rules
- (as modifier)a foul shot; a foul blow
- something foul
- an entanglement or collision, esp in sailing or fishing
- to make or become dirty or polluted
- to become or cause to become entangled or snarled
- (tr) to disgrace or dishonour
- to become or cause to become clogged or choked
- (tr) nautical (of underwater growth) to cling to (the bottom of a vessel) so as to slow its motion
- (tr) sport to commit a foul against (an opponent)
- (tr) baseball to hit (a ball) in an illegal manner
- (intr) sport to infringe the rules
- (tr) (of an animal, especially a dog) to defecate ondo not let your dog foul the footpath
- to collide with (a boat, etc)
- in a foul or unfair manner
- fall foul of
- to come into conflict with
- nauticalto come into collision with
Word Origin and History for foul
Old English ful "rotten, unclean, vile, corrupt, offensive to the senses," from Proto-Germanic *fulaz (cf. Old Saxon and Old Frisian ful, Middle Dutch voul, Dutch vuil, Old High German fül, German faul, Gothic füls), from root *fu-, corresponding to PIE *pu-, perhaps from the sound made in reaction to smelling something bad (cf. Sanskrit puyati "rots, stinks," putih "foul, rotten;" Greek puon "discharge from a sore;" Latin pus "putrid matter," putere "to stink," putridus "rotten;" Lithuanian puviu "to rot").
Old English ful occasionally meant "ugly" (as contrasted with fæger (adj.), modern fair (adj.)), a sense frequently found in Middle English, and the cognate in Swedish is the usual word for "ugly." Of weather, first recorded late 14c. In the sporting sense of "irregular, unfair" it is first attested 1797, though foul play is recorded from mid-15c. Baseball sense of "out of play" attested by 1860. Foulmart was a Middle English word for "polecat" (from Old English mearð "marten").
Old English fulian "to become foul, rot," from ful (see foul (adj.)). Related: Fouled; fouling.