befoul vs foul what difference

what is difference between befoul and foul



be- +‎ foul


  • IPA(key): /bɪˈfaʊl/
  • Rhymes: -aʊl


befoul (third-person singular simple present befouls, present participle befouling, simple past and past participle befouled)

  1. To make foul; to soil; to contaminate, pollute.
    • 1846, Charles Dickens, Pictures from Italy, London: for the author, “Avignon to Genoa,” p. 34,[1]
      These heights are a desirable retreat, for less picturesque reasons—as an escape from a compound of vile smells perpetually arising from a great harbour full of stagnant water, and befouled by the refuse of innumerable ships with all sorts of cargoes: which, in hot weather, is dreadful in the last degree.
    • 1897, Robert Gwynneddon Davies (translator), The Sleeping Bard by Ellis Wynne, London: Simplkon, Marshall & Co., Part I,[2]
      At last, what with a round of blasphemy, and the whole crowd with clay pistols belching smoke and fire and slander of their neighbours, and the floor already befouled with dregs and spittle, I feared lest viler deeds should happen, and craved to depart.
    • 1983, Mary Stewart, The Wicked Day, New York: William Morrow, Chapter 5, p. 53,[3]
      Only the four walls of his home still stood, blackened and smoking with the sluggish, stinking smoke that befouled the sea-wind.
    • 1997, Ted Hughes, Tales from Ovid, “Echo and Narcissus” in Paul Keegan (ed.), Ted Hughes: Collected Poems, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003, p. 919,[4]
      There was a pool of perfect water.
      [] No cattle
      Had slobbered their muzzles in it
      And befouled it.
  2. (specifically) To defecate on, to soil with excrement.
    • 1666, George Alsop, A Character of the Province of Mary-Land, London: Peter Dring, Preface,[5]
      For its an ill Bird will befoule her own Nest []
    • 1748, Tobias Smollett, The Adventures of Roderick Random, London: J. Osborn, Volume I, Chapter 12, p. 91,[6]
      [] But pray what smell is that? Sure your lapdog has befoul’d himself;—let me catch hold of the nasty cur, I’ll teach him better manners.”
  3. (figuratively) To stain or mar (for example with infamy or disgrace).
    • 1894, Hall Caine, The Manxman, London: Heinemann, Part 5, p. 282,[7]
      For three days Pete bore himself according to his wont, thinking to silence the evil tongues of the little world about him, and keep sweet and alive the dear name which they were waiting to befoul and destroy.
    • 1923, James Branch Cabell, The High Place, London: John Lane, Part 2, Chapter 15,[8]
      [] you combine a vulgar atheism and an iconoclastic desire to befoul the sacred ideas of the average man or woman, collectively scorned as the bourgeoisie——”
    • 1927, Frances Noyes Hart, The Bellamy Trial, Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Doran & Co., 1929, Chapter 5, p. 159,[9]
      There she sits before you, gentlemen, betrayed by her husband, befouled by every idle tongue that wags []
  4. To entangle or run against so as to impede motion. (The addition of quotations indicative of this usage is being sought:)


  • (stain or mar): besmirch, sully, tarnish

Related terms

  • afoul




  • enPR: foul, IPA(key): /faʊl/
  • Rhymes: -aʊl
  • Homophone: fowl
  • Rhymes: -aʊəl

Etymology 1

From Middle English foul, from Old English fūl (foul, unclean, impure, vile, corrupt, rotten, guilty), from Proto-Germanic *fūlaz (foul, rotten), from Proto-Indo-European *puH- (to rot). Cognate with Dutch vuil (foul), German faul (rotten, putrid), Danish and Swedish ful (foul), and through Indo-European, with Albanian fëlliq (to make dirty), Latin puter (rotten). More at putrid.

Ancient Greek φαῦλος (phaûlos, bad) is a false cognate inasmuch as it is not from the same etymon, instead being cognate to few.


foul (comparative fouler, superlative foulest)

  1. Covered with, or containing unclean matter; dirty.
  2. (of words or a way of speaking) obscene, vulgar or abusive.
  3. Detestable, unpleasant, loathsome.
    • c. 1610-11, William Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act II scene ii[1]:
      [] Hast thou forgot / The foul witch Sycorax, who with age and envy / Was grown into a hoop? Hast thou forgot her?
  4. Disgusting, repulsive; causing disgust.
  5. (obsolete) Ugly; homely; poor.
  6. (of the weather) Unpleasant, stormy or rainy.
  7. Dishonest or not conforming to the established rules and customs of a game, conflict, test, etc.
  8. (nautical) Entangled and therefore restricting free movement, not clear.
  9. (technical) (with “of”) Positioned on, in, or near enough to (a specified area) so as to obstruct it.
    • 2015, Transportation Safety Board of Canada, Railway Investigation Report R13T0192[2]:
      The bus had stopped just foul of the north track at the Erindale Station Road public railway crossing [] With the bus stationary, but still foul of the north track, the train struck one of its front mirrors.
  10. (baseball) Outside of the base lines; in foul territory.
Usage notes
  • Nouns to which “foul” is often applied: play, ball, language, breath, smell, odor, water, weather, deed.
  • (hateful, detestable): shameful; odious; wretched
Derived terms

Etymology 2

From Middle English foulen, fulen, from Old English fūlian (to become foul; rot; decay), from Proto-Germanic *fūlāną (to rot; decay).


foul (third-person singular simple present fouls, present participle fouling, simple past and past participle fouled)

  1. (transitive) To make dirty.
    to foul the face or hands with mire
    She’s fouled her diaper.
  2. (transitive) To besmirch.
    He’s fouled his reputation.
  3. (transitive) To clog or obstruct.
  4. (transitive, nautical) To entangle.
    • 1941, Emily Carr, Klee Wyck, Chapter 18, [3]
      The Indian’s heart was sore for his boat; it looked as if nothing could save her. She was drifting more slowly now, her propeller fouled in kelp.
    The kelp has fouled the prop.
  5. (transitive, basketball) To make contact with an opposing player in order to gain advantage.
    Smith fouled him hard.
  6. (transitive, baseball) To hit outside of the baselines.
    Jones fouled the ball off the facing of the upper deck.
  7. (intransitive) To become clogged.
    The drain fouled.
  8. (intransitive) To become entangled.
    The prop fouled on the kelp.
  9. (intransitive, basketball) To commit a foul.
    Smith fouled within the first minute of the quarter.
  10. (intransitive, baseball) To hit a ball outside of the baselines.
    Jones fouled for strike one.
Derived terms
  • foul one’s own nest


foul (plural fouls)

  1. (sports) A breach of the rules of a game, especially one involving inappropriate contact with an opposing player in order to gain an advantage; for example, tripping someone up in soccer, or contact of any kind in basketball.
  2. (bowling) A (usually accidental) contact between a bowler and the lane before the bowler has released the ball.
  3. (baseball) A foul ball, a ball which has been hit outside of the base lines.
    Jones hit a foul up over the screen.
  • Russian: фол (fol)

See also

  • foul fish

Further reading

  • foul in Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913.
  • foul in The Century Dictionary, New York, N.Y.: The Century Co., 1911.
  • foul at OneLook Dictionary Search


  • fluo-




  1. singular imperative of foulen
  2. (colloquial) first-person singular present of foulen

Middle English

Etymology 1

From Old French fol.



  1. Alternative form of fole (fool)

Etymology 2

From Old English fugol.



  1. Alternative form of fowel

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