Nearby words

  1. foudres,
  2. foudroyant,
  3. fouetté,
  4. fought,
  5. foujita,
  6. foul ball,
  7. foul line,
  8. foul marten,
  9. foul matter,
  10. foul one's nest


Origin of foul

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.

1. repulsive, repellent. 2. fetid, putrid, stinking. 3. unclean, polluted, sullied, soiled, stained, tainted, impure. 6. rainy, tempestuous. 7. adverse. 9. base, shameful, infamous. 10. smutty, vulgar, coarse, low. 24. sully, stain, dirty, besmirch, taint, pollute. 28. shame.

1. pleasant. 3, 24. clean. 5, 6. clear.

Related forms
Can be confusedfoul fowl

Synonym study

3. See dirty. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for foul out



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


  1. a violation of the rules
  2. (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
  1. to come into conflict with
  2. nauticalto come into collision with
See also foul up

Derived Formsfoully, adverb

Word Origin for foul

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

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

Word Origin and History for foul out
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with foul out


In addition to the idioms beginning with foul

  • foul one's nest
  • foul play
  • foul up

also see:

  • run afoul of
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.