View synonyms for foul


[ foul ]


, foul·er, foul·est.
  1. grossly offensive to the senses; disgustingly loathsome; noisome:

    a foul smell.

    Synonyms: repellent, repulsive

    Antonyms: pleasant

  2. containing or characterized by offensive or noisome matter:

    foul air; foul stagnant water.

    Synonyms: stinking, putrid, fetid

  3. filthy or dirty, as places, receptacles, clothes, etc.

    Synonyms: impure, polluted, unclean

    Antonyms: clean

  4. muddy, as a road.
  5. clogged or obstructed with foreign matter:

    a foul gas jet.

    Antonyms: clear

  6. unfavorable or stormy:

    foul weather.

    Synonyms: tempestuous, rainy

    Antonyms: clear

  7. contrary, violent, or unfavorable, as the wind.

    Synonyms: adverse

  8. grossly offensive in a moral sense.
  9. abominable, wicked, or vile, as deeds, crime, slander, etc.

    Synonyms: infamous, shameful, base

  10. scurrilous, profane, or obscene; offensive:

    foul language.

    Synonyms: low, coarse, vulgar, smutty

  11. contrary to the rules or established usages, as of a sport or game; unfair:

    a foul blow.

  12. Baseball. pertaining to a foul ball or a foul line.
  13. limited in freedom of movement by obstruction, entanglement, etc.:

    a foul anchor.

  14. abounding in errors or in marks of correction, as a printer's proof, manuscript, or the like.
  15. Nautical.
    1. (of the underwater portion of a hull) encrusted and impeded with barnacles, seaweed, etc.
    2. (of a mooring place) involving inconveniences and dangers, as of colliding with vessels or other objects when swinging with the tide.
    3. (of the bottom of a body of water) affording a poor hold for an anchor ( clean ).
  16. North England and Scot.. not fair; ugly or unattractive.
  17. Obsolete. disfigured.


  1. in a foul manner; vilely; unfairly.
  2. Baseball. into foul territory; so as to be foul:

    It looked like a homer when he hit it, but it went foul.


  1. something that is foul.
  2. a collision or entanglement:

    a foul between two racing sculls.

  3. a violation of the rules of a sport or game:

    The referee called it a foul.

  4. Baseball. foul ball.

verb (used with object)

  1. to make foul; defile; soil.

    Synonyms: pollute, taint, besmirch, dirty, stain, sully

    Antonyms: clean

  2. to clog or obstruct, as a chimney or the bore of a gun.
  3. to collide with.
  4. to cause to become entangled or caught, as a rope.
  5. to defile; dishonor; disgrace:

    His reputation had been fouled by unfounded accusations.

    Synonyms: shame

  6. Nautical. (of barnacles, seaweed, etc.) to cling to (a hull) so as to encumber.
  7. 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.

verb (used without object)

  1. to become foul.
  2. Nautical. to come into collision, as two boats.
  3. to become entangled or clogged:

    The rope fouled.

  4. Sports. to make a foul play; give a foul blow.
  5. Baseball. to hit a foul ball.

verb phrase

  1. Informal. to cause confusion or disorder; bungle; spoil.
    1. Baseball. to be put out by hitting a foul ball caught on the fly by a player on the opposing team.
    2. Basketball. to be expelled from a game for having committed more fouls than is allowed.


/ faʊl /


  1. offensive to the senses; revolting
  2. offensive in odour; stinking
  3. charged with or full of dirt or offensive matter; filthy
  4. (of food) putrid; rotten
  5. morally or spiritually offensive; wicked; vile
  6. obscene; vulgar

    foul language

  7. not in accordance with accepted standards or established rules; unfair

    to resort to foul means

  8. (esp of weather) unpleasant or adverse
  9. blocked or obstructed with dirt or foreign matter

    a foul drain

  10. entangled or impeded

    a foul anchor

  11. (of the bottom of a vessel) covered with barnacles and other growth that slow forward motion
  12. informal.
    unsatisfactory or uninteresting; bad

    a foul book

  13. archaic.


  1. sport
    1. a violation of the rules
    2. ( as modifier )

      a foul shot

      a foul blow

  2. something foul
  3. an entanglement or collision, esp in sailing or fishing


  1. to make or become dirty or polluted
  2. to become or cause to become entangled or snarled
  3. tr to disgrace or dishonour
  4. to become or cause to become clogged or choked
  5. tr nautical (of underwater growth) to cling to (the bottom of a vessel) so as to slow its motion
  6. tr sport to commit a foul against (an opponent)
  7. tr baseball to hit (a ball) in an illegal manner
  8. intr sport to infringe the rules
  9. tr (of an animal, especially a dog) to defecate on

    do not let your dog foul the footpath

  10. to collide with (a boat, etc)


  1. in a foul or unfair manner
  2. fall foul of
    1. to come into conflict with
    2. nautical to come into collision with

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Derived Forms

  • ˈfoully, adverb

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Other Words From

  • foully adverb
  • over·foul adjective
  • over·foully adverb
  • over·foulness noun
  • un·foul adjective
  • un·foully adverb
  • un·fouled adjective

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Word History and Origins

Origin of foul1

before 900; (adj. and noun) Middle English ful, foul, Old English fūl; cognate with Gothic fuls, Old Norse fūll, Old High German fūl; akin to Latin pūs pus, pūtēre to stink, Greek pýon pus; (adv.) Middle English fule, foule, derivative of the adj.; (v.) Middle English fulen, derivative of the adj.

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Word History and Origins

Origin of foul1

Old English fūl ; related to Old Norse fūll , Gothic fūls smelling offensively, Latin pūs pus , Greek puol pus

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Idioms and Phrases

  1. fall foul / afoul of,
    1. to collide with, as ships.
    2. to come into conflict with; quarrel.
    3. to make an attack; assault.
  2. foul one's nest, to dishonor one's own home, family, or the like.
  3. run foul / afoul of, to come into collision or controversy with:

    to run foul of the press.

More idioms and phrases containing foul

  • run afoul of

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Synonym Study

See dirty.

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Example Sentences

Entering through a window, Mono emerges into a foul kitchen where insects buzz over towering dirty dishes.

Jamorko Pickett posted 12 points, eight rebounds and three assists, and Chudier Bile also scored 12 points before fouling out.

We all have to go in and rebound and take an offensive foul.

The 22-year-old forward didn’t shoot well and flubbed fouling Heat center Bam Adebayo when the big man caught the ball on an inbounds pass during the last play of the game with the Washington Wizards up three.

Justyn Mutts added 17 points, and Hunter Cattoor scored 12 before fouling out.

Father Joel Román Salazar died in a car crash in 2013; his death was ruled an accident, but the suspicion of foul play persists.

Malcolm Tucker, a foul-mouthed political advisor, was the role that turned Capaldi into a household name in Britain.

Foul-mouthed chauvinist who flirted with chicks in a hot tub or celebrity-friendly sociopolitical satirist?

Playing the foul-mouthed bad character will become as predictable and counter-intuitive as a playing a thousand Joeys.

Miller took particular exception to a post in which Kelley had worried she might fall victim to foul play.

Two years later this promising recruit, having fallen foul of the military authorities, had to leave the service under a cloud.

But I have some more foul way to trot through still, in your Epistles and Satyrs, &c.

After he was securely bound he was forced to stand while the two, with foul epithets, hung the body of the corporal over the road.

Without warning, we found ourselves foul of a picket-line, and the vague forms of grazing horses loomed close by.

But it was strongly rumoured that there had been foul play, peculation, even forgery.


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Definitions and idiom definitions from Unabridged, based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

Idioms from The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.