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foul play

any treacherous or unfair dealing, especially involving murder:
We feared that he had met with foul play.
unfair conduct in a game.
Origin of foul play
First recorded in 1600-10 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for foul play
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • And the Emperor, having spoken of foul play, big words were exchanged.

  • Now and then, perchance, there is foul play among the hands.

    The House Under the Sea

    Sir Max Pemberton
  • He was not in the mood to listen to a dissertation on a text taken from foul play.

    The Portygee Joseph Crosby Lincoln
  • You swear to me, doctor, if there has been foul play it shall be discovered.

    One Of Them Charles James Lever
  • From marks about the throat grave suspicion of foul play are entertained.

    The First and The Last John Galsworthy
British Dictionary definitions for foul play

foul play

unfair or treacherous conduct esp with violence
a violation of the rules in a game or sport
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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Idioms and Phrases with foul play

foul play

Unfair or treacherous action, especially involving violence. For example, The police suspected he had met with foul play. This term originally was and still is applied to unfair conduct in a sport or game and was being used figuratively by the late 1500s. Shakespeare used it in The Tempest (1:2): “What foul play had we, that we came from thence?”
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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