Definition of foul in English:



  • 1Offensive to the senses, especially through having a disgusting smell or taste or being dirty.

    ‘a foul odour’
    ‘his foul breath’
    • ‘I was just getting Rick to his feet when a foul stench filled the air.’
    • ‘A Hong Kong man at the hotel said there was a foul smell and suddenly the corridor filled with smoke.’
    • ‘She sipped her cup of coffee, letting the strong flavor erase the foul aftertaste in her mouth.’
    • ‘Garbage and foul smells can sabotage good feng shui.’
    • ‘Every time I left my house, I smelled this foul odor of burnt flesh in the air; I didn't know what it was at first.’
    • ‘They began hobbling towards the car, Leanne almost crumbling under the weight and the disgusting, foul smell of alcohol.’
    • ‘Dustbins on the road between the commercial establishments and the main road leading to Kalka are not cleaned regularly and emit a foul smell.’
    • ‘The bread had been alright, but the water… it had tasted so foul.’
    • ‘There was a foul stench in the air like that of gunpowder.’
    • ‘It leaks into groundwater from fuel storage tanks, contaminating water supplies with a foul smell and taste.’
    • ‘I just rolled out of the bed groggy, with a massive headache, sore eyes, a foul taste in my mouth and the smell of cigarettes on my clothes and in my hair.’
    • ‘He came so close to her she could smell his foul breath, and she turned her head away.’
    • ‘Ten minutes into our trip a foul smell begins to permeate the carriage; it emanates from the aforementioned toilets.’
    • ‘The old wooden stairs gave way to concrete, and a foul musty smell filled the air.’
    • ‘Many of these residents have complained to me about the foul taste and murky color of their tap water.’
    • ‘Not many city residents go there to spend an evening because of the foul smell from the sewer, which is in the middle of the garden dividing it into two zones.’
    • ‘The room they entered was a dark, foul-smelling cellar.’
    • ‘A foul stench filled the air, though she could not put a name to what it was.’
    • ‘He pulled me close to his face, so close that I could smell his foul breath.’
    • ‘Both are worried about the effect the leak could have on their own properties as well as the foul smell.’
    dirty, filthy, mucky, grimy, grubby, stained, dirt-encrusted, muddy, muddied, unclean, unwashed
    disgusting, revolting, repellent, repulsive, repugnant, abhorrent, loathsome, offensive, detestable, awful, dreadful, horrible, terrible, horrendous, hideous, appalling, atrocious, vile, abominable, frightful, sickening, nauseating, nauseous, stomach-churning, stomach-turning, off-putting, uninviting, unpalatable, unappetizing, unsavoury, distasteful, nasty, obnoxious, objectionable, odious
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    1. 1.1informal Very disagreeable or unpleasant.
      ‘the news had put Michelle in a foul mood’
      • ‘He came home at 12 pm in a particularly foul mood.’
      • ‘However, at the time, the atmosphere was foul - even once or twice nearly degenerating into a punch-up.’
      • ‘I have been foul to you and I must apologize.’
      • ‘I went upstairs in a foul mood and shut myself in my room.’
      • ‘So it is indeed possible that he had no idea he was being so foul.’
      • ‘Interviewed later Diffey said he could not remember much about the incident, but he said he had been in a really foul mood that day.’
      • ‘As if my foul mood isn't bad enough, I have just got a notice from DHL informing me that the package I sent from home in February has been lost.’
      • ‘Mrs M was in the foulest of moods imaginable. She set us a test tomorrow as EXTRA homework’
      • ‘School starts tonight, it's snowing again, and I'm in a foul mood.’
      • ‘On Wednesday last week Clarke arrived at the paper's offices in Glasgow's Central Quay in a foul temper.’
      • ‘In hospital she screamed at the nurses. ‘I was foul to them. I became a monster,’ she says, sighing heavily.’
      • ‘Thomas had looked at his brother, completely undisturbed by the foul glare he was giving him.’
      • ‘Never mind me, I'm just in a foul mood after today's work.’
      • ‘I was in a foul mood and looking for a reason to have a row with someone.’
      • ‘Both father and son knew that she would be in a foul mood.’
      • ‘He was in a foul temper and this was not making matters any better.’
      • ‘Francophiles will have discovered long ago that the quality of the wines on sale in French hypermarchés is usually foul.’
      • ‘Jo was fun to hang out with, but she had a foul temper.’
      • ‘‘OK, sorry,’ Leanne said, taken aback by Rob's uncharacteristically foul mood.’
      • ‘The 72-year-old R&B legend is in one of his famous foul moods.’
      unkind, unfriendly, disagreeable, inconsiderate, uncharitable, rude, churlish, spiteful, malicious, mean, mean-spirited, ill-tempered, ill-natured, ill-humoured, bad-tempered, hostile, vicious, malevolent, evil-minded, surly, obnoxious, poisonous, venomous, vindictive, malign, malignant, cantankerous, hateful, hurtful, cruel, wounding, abusive
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  • 2Wicked or immoral.

    ‘murder most foul’
    • ‘We will do everything in our power to bring to justice those who were responsible for this foul deed.’
    • ‘Swindon's most senior Judge John McNaught has dealt with the foulest of crimes in more than 40 years in the courtroom.’
    • ‘Most men involved in the search now believed that a foul crime had been committed.’
    • ‘He was too goddamn innocent for her foul mind to understand.’
    • ‘They came horribly close to succeeding in this foul design.’
    • ‘You would commit the most foul of murders out of loyalty to me.’
    • ‘King Hamlet's tormented spirit reveals that a hidden crime of foul murder condemns it to walk the earth and roast in hell.’
    • ‘Leaders and media observers repeated the nostrum that the best way for the country to respond to such a foul crime is to return to normal and signal that the nation's spirit and resolve cannot be undermined.’
    • ‘Handing down a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment, the judge said it was an ‘evil and foul’ murder of ‘unspeakable savagery’.’
    • ‘There is a case of murder involved here - and a foul murder, at that - by a person who had a modus operandi that has been known to the police now for years.’
    • ‘As Shakespeare knew only too well, from foul deeds endless tragedy arises.’
    • ‘The methods might have been foul - full of dishonesty, cynicism and hypocrisy - but they worked.’
    • ‘Our forces will rid the world of the evil men who committed this foul deed.’
    • ‘In August 1996 its 10 million citizens were convulsed in grief and anger to hear of the foul deeds of child rapist and murderer, Mark Dutroux.’
    • ‘In the popular consciousness, however, paganism and witchcraft have come to be associated with black magic, foul deeds, even devil-worship.’
    • ‘Canvassing for the leadership contest degenerated into a vicious campaign in which all kinds of foul means including promise of office and bribery were resorted to.’
    • ‘The phantom king begs Hamlet to avenge his foul murder.’
    • ‘We must stand side by side with the Jewish community, and the evil perpetrators of those foul attacks must be brought to justice.’
    • ‘Second, racism is a foul, potentially murderous and often actually murderous thing.’
    • ‘The characters are, with the possible exception of Beatrix, uniformly foul, violent, brutal, cold.’
    1. 2.1(of language) obscene.
      ‘foul oaths’
      ‘foul language’
      • ‘Such moves in future, however, should also attempt to curb the rising tide of foul language, both on the pitch and terraces.’
      • ‘The language is foul (no surprise), and they have been seen urinating in front gardens.’
      • ‘The statements are completely uncensored and if foul or explicit language offends you then this probably isn't your thing.’
      • ‘We're hearing a lot more foul language in public these days.’
      • ‘However Sheridan then blotted his copy book by getting sent off in the 70th minute for foul and abusive language.’
      • ‘They made their way back to the ship, where Fleet was currently halfway through an incredibly foul and quite inspired stream of profanity.’
      • ‘However, your language is exceedingly foul for someone in your position.’
      • ‘Even though I learned most of my foul vocabulary from my parents, Mom had one word that was off-limits.’
      • ‘He said the word ‘detectives’ as if it was the most foul profanity.’
      • ‘People who use public transport should not have to put up with foul language, aggressive behaviour or the fear of people causing damage.’
      • ‘Elva still tries to find me, screaming foul profanities.’
      • ‘I sat towards the front of the tram which was fairly quiet until a group of late teens / early twenty year old males got on at the back and discussed quite loudly using the foulest of language the events of the previous night.’
      • ‘Both players were found guilty of foul and abusive language towards the match official during Acorn's defeat to Normanton Knights on November 20.’
      • ‘Eventually, your little baby is going to blurt out something foul, no matter how sheltered you think she is.’
      • ‘She winced and screamed a very foul and unladylike oath.’
      • ‘He was allegedly uncooperative and became verbally abusive, using foul 4 - letter words and obscene hand gestures.’
      • ‘Well, foul speech may be offensive, but who can say with certainty what is obscene?’
      • ‘He was also found guilty of ungentlemanly conduct, but a charge of using foul and abusive language was not proven.’
      • ‘Recently a manager of a Scottish Football League side decided to referee his youth teams in a match, and ended up sending two of the boys home, so foul was their abusive language.’
      • ‘Don't be distracted by my foul vocabulary or by your own frustration.’
      vulgar, obscene, profane, blasphemous, gross, coarse, crude, filthy, dirty, indecent, indelicate, suggestive, smutty, off colour, low, lewd, ribald, salacious, scatological, offensive, abusive
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    2. 2.2Done contrary to the rules of a sport.
      ‘a foul tackle’
      • ‘And former New Zealand captain Quentin Pongia was put on report for an alleged foul tackle.’
      • ‘His two foul shots at the end of the 1957 Finals gave the Celtics their first title.’
      • ‘The eighth was a strikeout, the ninth a pop fly to first base, the 10th a foul pop to the catcher.’
      • ‘He called four foul throw-ins, invoked the six-second rule against a keeper who had just come on as a substitute and found himself being exceptionally whistle happy.’
      • ‘In the first 20 minutes Knowles put his side into a 2-0 lead with two superb lobbed goals, but was later dismissed following a foul tackle.’
      • ‘All I can say is that I'll certainly be expecting my men to get stuck in and it's up to the referee after that to decide what s a fair tackle and what s a foul tackle.’
      • ‘So it's pretty ironic that the average NBA player couldn't make a foul shot if his sneaker contract depended on it.’
      • ‘Therefore, the proportion of foul tackles equates to the likelihood of player error occurring during the execution of a tackle.’
      • ‘Jefferson doesn't back away from contact and plays with emotion - even yelling at himself for something simple like a missed foul shot.’
      • ‘From the foul tackle the ball fell loose and crossed the line for a goal.’
      • ‘In the top of the 8th inning, with one out, a Marlin batter hit a foul fly ball in the direction of the stands.’
      • ‘There was not a foul or unfair stroke in the game.’
      unsporting, unsportsmanlike, dirty, below the belt, illegal, illegitimate, illicit, underhand, unscrupulous, dishonourable
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  • 3Containing or full of noxious matter; polluted.

    ‘foul, swampy water’
    • ‘Their choice was cold, damp, flooded huts or foul, humid air in an overcrowded ward.’
    • ‘The meter-square bag was found leaking its foul contents outside the office of legislator Leung Yiu-chung in an industrial area of Kowloon.’
    • ‘He claimed they were held in wire cages open to the elements and forced to drink foul water and food that was out of date by up to 10 years.’
    • ‘There were also doubts about the ability of the current sewerage system to cope with more foul water and concern over the loss of recreational space.’
    • ‘At least five homes in Moresby Close, Westlea, were swamped by up to six inches of foul water when a brook flooded and sewers burst during a recent downpour.’
    • ‘The air grew foul, the reek of rotting death made them heave as they picked their way through the mass of tangled bodies.’
    • ‘Afterwards he lay there, breathing the foul air as shallowly as he could.’
    • ‘As London grew from a rambling town into a crowded urban center, its city air grew ever more foul with smoke and unhealthy sulfur dioxide gases from wood-burning and coal-burning stoves.’
    • ‘They could not approach the city for it was blocked by a foul morass on all sides.’
    • ‘In 1285 London's air was so foul that King Edward I set up an air pollution commission, which banned the use of coal.’
    • ‘As well, some new sewers will be laid in the town and there will be greater separation of surface water from foul sewer to create more capacity in the treatment plant.’
    • ‘If the room had a little light apart from the faulty bedside lamp that flickered unpredictably every few minutes it wouldn't be so bad, or even just a fan that at least to cool and circulate the foul damp air.’
    • ‘The sky was the sort of overcast that was not just gray, but the kind of gray that bled the color from all the things around it, a thick smog filling the air, ominous and foul.’
    • ‘Pastor's neighborhood of million-dollar homes, all backing up to a private park, was covered with foul, inky water.’
    • ‘The first few breaths overwhelmed her and she gagged on the foul air.’
    • ‘Most of these tasks were in the pipeline anyway as part of Beijing's plan to modernise its outdated infrastructure and clean up its notoriously foul air.’
    • ‘This has caused foul water pooling in the street and the mosquitoes and rats have arrived.’
    • ‘In the 19th century refuse, waste, water and foul water were just dumped in the streets, resulting in widespread disease.’
    • ‘Less than 10 miles east lies the Potomac River, a foul body of water when we founded this organization in 1966.’
    • ‘It is illegal to discharge foul water into a surface water drain.’
    contaminated, polluted, adulterated, infected, tainted, defiled, impure, filthy, dirty, unclean
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    1. 3.1Clogged or choked with.
      ‘the land was foul with weeds’
      • ‘She was glad not to be able to see much of the place, foul with seeping water and fungus, a chamber of old horrors where prisoners hunched under the vaults of cold stone like monstrous white insects, wingless and half-blind.’
      • ‘Wheat is an exhausting crop, which requires land in good heart, whilst if grown continuously, or too frequently, disease often becomes serious, and, most important of all, the land becomes very foul with weeds.’
    2. 3.2Nautical (of a rope or anchor) entangled.
    3. 3.3(of a ship's bottom) overgrown with weed, barnacles, or similar matter.
  • 4(of the weather) wet and stormy.

    ‘he walked in fair and foul weather’
    ‘the weather turned foul’
    • ‘On a completely foul day try putting some black and white film in the camera and see what you get.’
    • ‘Horse and rider need to nurture complete trust, to tackle the field in fair weather or foul with cavalier bravery but with two minds, one of them human, intrinsically focused.’
    • ‘The foul weather also keeps most students at school in the middle of the day, making do with very simple food such as plain steamed buns and hot water, for lunch.’
    • ‘Often they will be out in foul weather when most of us would rather be tucked up in bed.’
    • ‘The new building will have improved facilities, ensuring it remains a welcome retreat for ramblers, particularly after climbing Mount Snowdon in foul weather.’
    • ‘As foul weather blighted Manchester's New Year celebrations, people who had not bought tickets turned up at the hotel's doors.’
    • ‘The situation is worse when the weather is foul.’
    • ‘The sky was darkening quickly, threatening foul weather and danger in the distance.’
    • ‘Despite predictions of foul weather and traffic chaos, sunny weather lured thousands of tourists to the Lake District.’
    • ‘The weather was foul but we decided to treat ourselves to a Starbucks trip anyway, and were well rewarded.’
    • ‘Hart drove two tons of metal through a foul and wintry February morning, hurtling through the snowy dark.’
    • ‘The weather was foul this morning and we all got soaked.’
    • ‘Meanwhile, while the Irish and their neighbours in Britain may bemoan the foul weather, spare a thought for residents along the east coast of the USA.’
    • ‘Redhill was the wettest place in England last Tuesday and the coldest in the UK that night as foul weather swept the country.’
    • ‘Initial reports suggest that that crash was an accident because of foul weather.’
    • ‘With the foul weather, crazy workload and lack of sleep, motivation has been pretty low for the last three months.’
    • ‘She added that unlike other walkers, groups of charity fund-raisers were not deterred by foul weather, simply because they had to take part in their event on a chosen day.’
    • ‘When I arrived in Cambridge, Mass., in early September 1978, foul weather had already set in.’
    • ‘It was January, the weather was foul, it was after Christmas and people needed cheering up.’
    • ‘Both European victories have been on Scottish soil, but the weather was so foul last weekend that it would be wrong the claim the latter was an unqualified success.’
    inclement, unpleasant, disagreeable, dirty, nasty, rough, bad
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    1. 4.1Sailing (of wind or tide) opposed to one's desired course.
      ‘it sometimes becomes advantageous to anchor during the periods of foul tide’
      • ‘Nicolson, a successful writer but somewhat inexperienced sailor, teams up with an old salt and buddy George Fairhurst, who continually bails them out of near calamities - foul currents, fierce tides, raging winds and equipment failures.’
      • ‘This is nearly twice the power usually found on boats this size and provides lots of power for punching through chop and motoring against foul winds and currents.’


  • 1(in sport) an unfair or invalid stroke or piece of play, especially one involving interference with an opponent.

    ‘the midfielder was booked for a foul on Ford’
    • ‘He even had the ball in the net, but was booked for a foul on the goalkeeper.’
    • ‘Ray Parlour committed four fouls himself before he got his first booking.’
    • ‘In last week's ferocious victory over Huddersfield, for example, Ellis was the victim of a deliberate late foul, and was then bitten for good measure.’
    • ‘Jim Leishman had words with referee John Underhill after the game concerning the foul that led to the second goal.’
    • ‘Phil Neville and Tim Cahill were both booked, with the former Manchester United midfielder responsible for the foul which forced off Pires.’
    • ‘My biggest concern would be can he stay in the game without having a lot of fouls called against him.’
    • ‘It took three fouls apiece on Kandi and Ervin Johnson to force Saunders's hand in the direction he should have been following all along - playing Mark Madsen.’
    • ‘In the past decade, Brazilian football has become among the most violent in the world with an astonishing average of around 55 fouls a game in domestic matches.’
    • ‘It was a tough time for the French and Silvestre, having already been booked for a foul on Gillespie, just couldn't contain the winger in the 69th minute.’
    • ‘Never a thing of beauty, the game got even scrappier with Tom McCarthy brandishing the yellow card to three perpetrators of clumsy fouls.’
    • ‘He fell into the area but the foul looked to have been committed just outside it.’
    • ‘It was a well-behaved match with very few fouls.’
    • ‘Owen had a much more convincing penalty appeal just before half-time, but Andreas Dober somehow got away with a blatant, over-the-top foul.’
    • ‘To be fair to Halsey, he didn't have a good view of the incident, and there was no way he could tell how obvious a foul it was.’
    • ‘While the energetic midfielder's two fouls - on Van Bronckhorst and then Pires - just about deserved cautions, a final warning would surely have been a more common-sense decision.’
    • ‘The game was also notable for an atrocious four-man foul on Kerry's most exciting player, Mickey O'Sullivan, who never played the game again.’
    • ‘World Cup referees yesterday vowed to crack down on players who orchestrate and feign fouls to get opponents in trouble.’
    • ‘Drummond, Carlton and Lee Collins also had further chances - and all Aldershot could muster in reply, a succession of fouls apart, was a Jim Rodwell shot from long range on 37 minutes.’
    • ‘A series of petty fouls brought a booking for Smertin in the 29th minute, which made him the third Russian to be cautioned by referee Urs Meir.’
    • ‘Harvey got whistled for a foul and then lost it, followed by Howard.’
    unfair, against the rules, illegal, unsporting, unsportsmanlike, below the belt, dirty, dishonourable, dishonest, underhand, unscrupulous, unjust, unprincipled, immoral, crooked, fraudulent
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    1. 1.1A collision or entanglement in riding, rowing, or running.
      • ‘With a personal best of 6.68m from earlier in the season, she surprisingly had fouls on her first two efforts and waited long on the runway as she composed herself for her last attempt.’


  • Contrary to the rules; unfairly.

    • ‘That's the real problem: even guys who want to play fair are under pressure from cheaters to play foul.’
    • ‘I think any form of a quota must be done away with whether it is a quota in numbers…or a quota in time, i.e. you have to fill these positions by such and such a time if you do not want to be foul of the law.’
    • ‘There have been productions of this play set in innumerable locales and time periods, but I've never seen one that played so foul with the tone of Shakespeare's text.’
    • ‘Italian editors shrieked that the Austrian team had ‘played foul’.’
    • ‘So that if you're knowingly taking advantage of people with a disadvantage, then you're coming foul of the Trade Practices Act.’


  • 1Make foul or dirty; pollute.

    ‘factories which fouled the atmosphere’
    • ‘When the EPA found companies fouling our air and water, it instituted a program of pollution credits.’
    • ‘When planning, it's wise to site ponds away from trees as dead leaves will foul the water.’
    • ‘The spill fouled over 60 miles of the river and 20 marinas in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.’
    • ‘The mountains of manure that factory farming generates foul our air and water, disrupting ecosystems and sickening rural communities.’
    • ‘Its design is outdated and inappropriate; its size, looks, and four-wheel drive bring out the worst in drivers; it clogs streets and fouls the air.’
    • ‘Industry and agriculture have fouled the air, the water, and the soil.’
    • ‘At rush hour the streets are plugged with cars producing vast quantities of toxic gases that foul the air.’
    • ‘Industrial and human wastes fouled drinking water, turning the Thames into an open sewer whose stench drove Disraeli choking from the chamber of the Commons in the ‘great stink’ of 1858.’
    • ‘Regional air pollution increased throughout the 1990s and into the current decade as electricity demand, motor vehicle use and industrial activity have increasingly fouled the air.’
    • ‘Moreover, our dependency on coal to generate energy not only fouls our air, but poisons our fish with mercury.’
    dirty, soil, stain, blacken, muddy, begrime, splash, spatter, smear, befoul, besmirch, blight, defile, make filthy, infect, pollute, contaminate, poison, taint, adulterate, sully
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    1. 1.1(of an animal) make (something) dirty with excrement.
      ‘make sure that your pet never fouls paths’
      • ‘Concerned residents of the heritage town of Abbeyleix are surprised that there are a few dog owners who look the other way when their pets foul the footpaths and other public places.’
      • ‘He said even though it was illegal, the biggest problem was policing the situation and actually catching and prosecuting people who allow their dogs to foul the streets and parks.’
      • ‘Now the wardens have received powers to slap £25 fixed penalty notices on litter louts and people who allow their dogs to foul the district's parks.’
      • ‘It follows a previous campaign which has seen fixed penalty notices handed out to owners who allow their dogs to foul the streets and in parks without clearing up after them.’
      • ‘On Monday, members of the town council recreation and amenities committee despaired over the number of owners who continue to let their dogs foul public places.’
      • ‘Her decision brought to an end many months of wrangling with some of the neighbours, who claimed her cats were fouling their gardens and making their lives hell.’
      • ‘The land is now being used by the football and rounders club, whose members want to stop dogs fouling the pitch and youngsters riding motorcycles across it.’
      • ‘Dog owners who refuse to clean up after their pets have fouled the streets of York have been reminded they risk a fine of up to £1,000.’
      • ‘Parish councillor David Sweet is urging residents to report anyone spotted allowing their dog to illegally foul restricted areas such as the High Street.’
      • ‘It was also pointed out that a fence was necessary to stop cattle from getting onto the boat club land and to stop dogs fouling pasture meant for silage.’
      • ‘Responsible dog owners in Addingham have been asked to report people who let their pets foul fields, streets and other open spaces in the village.’
      • ‘People on the path have also walked through the middle of outdoor lessons and sports activities and dog walkers have allowed their pets to foul the playground.’
      • ‘Year six pupils at Arnside National School have designed warning posters to encourage dog owners to think twice about letting their dogs foul the village streets.’
      • ‘More than a hundred fines have now been issued to people who drop litter or let their dogs foul the pavement in Sheffield.’
      • ‘In a zero-tolerance initiative, Manchester city council is cracking down on dog owners who allow their pets to foul public spaces.’
      • ‘The Environment Education and Enforcement Team tackles those people who tip rubbish, drop litter and allow their dogs to foul streets and open spaces.’
      • ‘Southend Council is waging war against unsociable dog owners who let their pets foul the street.’
      • ‘Swindon Council employs dog wardens whose job is to patrol the borough's streets keeping a watchful eye on careless owners who let their pets foul the streets.’
      • ‘But others complain that foxes are digging up their gardens, fouling their lawns, attacking their pets and ripping open their garbage bags.’
      • ‘Anyone who refuses to pay an on-the-spot fine for allowing their pet to foul a footpath, for example, could be taken to court and find their name in the newspapers.’
    2. 1.2(of a person) defecate involuntarily.
      • ‘Sure, I'll still defecate in my pants, but now my excrement will be safely contained and no one need know that I have fouled myself in public.’
      • ‘Nervous of legal action from passengers humiliated by fouling themselves in their seats, most carriers allowed crew to decide whether the person requesting admission to the smallest part of the plane was desperate or a desperado.’
      • ‘They described ‘torture techniques’ and claimed that detainees had been forced into painful positions for 18 to 24 hours at a time or left to foul themselves.’
      • ‘Now and then, she fouled herself or wet herself.’
      • ‘For an enemy combatant to foul himself in a hot room is an unpleasant thing.’
  • 2(in sport) commit a foul against (an opponent)

    ‘United claim their keeper was fouled’
    • ‘It seemed the only way for Blackburn to stop Chelsea was to foul them, and Neill was booked for bringing Robben down as he surged goalwards.’
    • ‘Dave Rogers fouled Moussilou in the eighth minute, and the hosts were awarded a free-kick, which Acimovic fired high over keeper Steve Williams' crossbar.’
    • ‘The keeper fouled his opponent but avoided a red card.’
    • ‘Then a terrible back pass from Steven Gerrard saw Thierry Henry fouled by the England goal - keeper David James, allowing Zidane to secure victory with a penalty.’
    • ‘St Joseph's were put under more pressure when their winger was sent off for fouling Marsden as he scored but this seemed to make the Huddersfield side more committed.’
    • ‘Beckham briefly saw the red mist when he went chasing after Vata and brought him down after clearly believing he had been fouled himself by the Albanian midfielder.’
    • ‘Portland proceeded to foul O'Neal repeatedly, a familiar tactic and one that had often frustrated the big man.’
    • ‘This time Scholes is fouled, giving Beckham another chance to swing it in from the left.’
    • ‘Haas is sent off after picking up another yellow for fouling Paul Scholes.’
    • ‘The end of the game took on a sour note as Tooreen's Sean Ganley was sent off for a second bookable offence when he fouled Ciaran Cox who had come on as a substitute just minutes previously.’
    • ‘Alan Kelly was fouled in the penalty area and Coleman coolly converted the resulting penalty.’
    • ‘Rangers defender Khizanishvilli seemed to get the final touch but Larsson was deemed to have fouled De Boer to aid its passage.’
    • ‘Portlaw did have claims for a penalty turned down late on when it seemed keeper Wayne English had fouled a Portlaw player in the area but referee Martin Halley waved play on.’
    • ‘ADF started to dominate the midfield and just before half-time, striker Paul Fleming was fouled in the box.’
    • ‘As Collier tried to net from the rebound he was fouled and another penalty was awarded.’
    • ‘Silsden were given a lifeline when Hoyle was fouled and Rhodes dispatched another penalty.’
    • ‘The Town keeper Darren O'Grady was obviously fouled as he went to catch a high punt with Gary Smyth tucking the loose ball into the unguarded net.’
    • ‘Mark Hudson then hit the crossbar, Moyles was fouled and sub Tom Donovan converted the penalty as Celbridge ran out six point winners.’
    • ‘The Reebok held its breath as Okocha strode forward to stroke the spot-kick wide to Kasey Keller's left after Spurs sub Gary Doherty had fouled Youri Djorkaeff.’
    • ‘Jason Maxwell was once again fouled 40 yards from goal and Danny Walsh hoisted a dangerous cross over.’
  • 3(of a ship) collide with or interfere with the passage of (another)

    ‘the ships became overcrowded and fouled each other’
    • ‘In The Edison [1933] AC 449, the appellants, whose vessel had been fouled by the respondents, claimed damages under various heads.’
    1. 3.1Cause (a cable, anchor, or other object) to become entangled or jammed.
      ‘watch out for driftwood which might foul up the engine’
      [no object] ‘we feared the anchor would foul in the heavy grasses’
      • ‘Earlier in the day, they were called to assist a fishing vessel when its propellor became fouled while fishing off Helvick.’
      • ‘Once fouled on the reefs, the nets go on fishing, killing sea turtles, fish, seabirds and other wildlife while destroying corals.’
      • ‘Stromness lifeboat was called out at the weekend after a Scrasbter fishing boat fouled her propeller in severe weather conditions.’
      • ‘The vessel's net entangled and fouled the 52-foot motor lifeboat's twin 36-inch brass propellers.’
      • ‘Her propellor had been fouled and the vessel was stuck to the sea-bed.’
      • ‘The Stromness lifeboat attended the fishing vessel Arkhangel at 4pm on Saturday after the vessel fouled her propeller 20 miles off Noup Head in Westray.’
      • ‘It is apparent that the wreck has been cleared to below deck level, with some additional damage to the starboard side of the hull, perhaps a consequence of the Silver Harvest fouling its anchor on the wreck in 1998.’
      • ‘The vessel, with two men on board raised the alarm just after 9 p.m. when its propeller became fouled.’
      tangle up, entangle, snarl, catch, entwine, enmesh, twist, tangle
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  • foul one's (own) nest

    • Do something damaging or harmful to oneself or one's own interests.

      ‘we seem to have fouled our own nest, running up huge debts and deficits’
      • ‘I agree we are unlikely to destroy the planet, but are highly likely to foul our nest beyond habitability for ourselves.’
      • ‘This works in part because the criminals are careful not to foul their own nest.’
      • ‘Do these other magazines understand that by painting a dark and distorted picture of the bodybuilding world, they are fouling their own nest, shooting themselves in the foot by undermining their own future?’
      • ‘Of course, this romantic observation occurs in an essay called ‘Murder in the Kitchen,’ in which Watts also writes that by ‘destroying our environment and fouling our own nest… the world around us looks as if we hated it.’’
      • ‘At a time when politician-bashing has become a national sport, too many MPs have joined in this campaign, denigrating politics as a vocation. In effect, they are fouling their own nests.’
      • ‘Now the prime minister has gone a step further in the process of fouling his European nest.’
      • ‘Yet consistently, with appalling regularity and style, he has displayed an equivalent capacity to foul his own nest, plucking frequent disasters from the jaws of personal victory.’

Phrasal Verbs

  • foul something up (or foul up)

    • Make a mistake with or spoil something.

      ‘leaders should admit when they foul things up’
      • ‘He didn't take the train because there was a derailment and the schedule was fouled up.’
      • ‘‘Here was an ideal opportunity for Yorkshire to have done something positive and they have gone and fouled it up,’ he said.’
      • ‘And I thought before you foul things up in your typical fashion you might want to know the truth.’
      • ‘Anything worth doing is worth doing twice, especially after you've fouled it up the first time.’
      • ‘A sweet, tender, loving, affectionate, beautiful woman who pursued ME, and I still found a way to foul it up and lose her.’
      • ‘If anything something should be done because we fouled up so atrociously in the past.’
      • ‘I have half a mind to turn up in court on the scheduled date with the bank statements proving that they have fouled up, and then invoicing them for my time.’
      • ‘Companies make a good product and then they foul it up with a container that the customer can't open.’
      • ‘If spammers can add enough legitimate sites to the master spam list, they can foul it up and make it less usable.’
      • ‘Refreshingly, for the author of a book about lying, she is honest enough to admit when she has fouled up.’
      • ‘Getting compensation when your bank, building society, insurer or investment house fouls up will soon be a lot easier with the establishment of a new financial complaints body to replace the existing muddle of various ombudsmen.’
      • ‘In the coming decades, there's going to be a time of great opportunity if we make the right decisions, if government doesn't foul it up.’
      • ‘It must be said that a professedly cash strapped County Board has fouled up a great chance to pull in some badly needed revenue by playing these two games at separate venues on Sunday.’
      • ‘Practice this shot until you can make it 8 out of 10 times (even the pros will foul it up sometimes.)’
      • ‘We're just another species - the dominant species, maybe, and the one who's doing the most to foul things up for all the rest, but surely we're flattering ourselves if we think that we are somehow essential to the operation of this planet.’
      • ‘But it wasn't enough to take away from the fact the FAI fouled up and were being told so in no uncertain terms.’
      • ‘I fouled up in the area where I'm supposed to be a master, the area of just politics.’
      • ‘Although it's a relatively easy daily task, reduced with usage to a routine I can accomplish in a couple of minutes, running on auto-pilot, it takes no more than the click of a wrong button in the text editor to foul things up.’
      • ‘Hollywood's ability to take a perfectly good story and completely foul it up has never ceased to amaze me.’
      • ‘To err is human, but to really foul things up requires a computer.’
      wreck, ruin, spoil, disrupt, undo, upset, play havoc with, make a mess of, put an end to, end, bring to an end, put a stop to, terminate, prevent, frustrate, blight, crush, quell, quash, dash, scotch, shatter, vitiate, blast, devastate, demolish, sabotage, torpedo
      View synonyms


Old English fūl, of Germanic origin; related to Old Norse fúll foul, Dutch vuil dirty, and German faul rotten, lazy, from an Indo-European root shared by Latin pus, Greek puos pus, and Latin putere to stink.