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[foo l-suh m, fuhl-] /ˈfʊl səm, ˈfʌl-/
offensive to good taste, especially as being excessive; overdone or gross:
fulsome praise that embarrassed her deeply; fulsome décor.
disgusting; sickening; repulsive:
a table heaped with fulsome mounds of greasy foods.
excessively or insincerely lavish:
fulsome admiration.
encompassing all aspects; comprehensive:
a fulsome survey of the political situation in Central America.
abundant or copious.
Origin of fulsome
First recorded in 1200-50, fulsome is from the Middle English word fulsom. See full1, -some1
Related forms
fulsomely, adverb
fulsomeness, noun
unfulsome, adjective
Can be confused
full, fullness, fulsome.
fulsome, noisome (see usage note at the current entry)
Usage note
In the 13th century when it was first used, fulsome meant simply “abundant or copious.” It later developed additional senses of “offensive, gross” and “disgusting, sickening,” probably by association with foul, and still later a sense of excessiveness: a fulsome disease; a fulsome meal, replete with too much of everything. For some centuries fulsome was used exclusively, or nearly so, with these unfavorable meanings.
Today, both fulsome and fulsomely are also used in senses closer to the original one: The sparse language of the new Prayer Book contrasts with the fulsome language of Cranmer's Book of Common Prayer. Later they discussed the topic more fulsomely. These uses are often criticized on the grounds that fulsome must always retain its connotations of “excessive” or “offensive.” The common phrase fulsome praise is thus sometimes ambiguous in modern use. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for fulsome


excessive or insincere, esp in an offensive or distasteful way: fulsome compliments
(not standard) extremely complimentary
(informal) full, rich or abundant: a fulsome figure, a fulsome flavour, fulsome detail
(archaic) disgusting; loathsome
Derived Forms
fulsomely, adverb
fulsomeness, noun
Usage note
The use of fulsome to mean extremely complimentary or full, rich or abundant is common in journalism, but should be avoided in other kinds of writing
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 fulsome

Middle English compound of ful "full" (see full (adj.)) + -som (see -some (1)). Sense evolved from "abundant, full" (mid-13c.) to "plump, well-fed" (mid-14c.) to "overgrown, overfed" (1640s) and thus, of language, "offensive to taste or good manners" (1660s). Since the 1960s, however, it commonly has been used in its original, favorable sense, especially in fulsome praise. Related: Fulsomely; fulsomeness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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