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run foul of (someone or something)
To be in severe disagreement, trouble, or difficulty with someone or something; to be at odds with someone or something, especially due to disobeying rules or laws. Always look into the laws of any place you visit, or you may end up unwittingly running foul of the local police. Ms. Banks has run foul of this university for the last time. She is no longer welcome here!
To protest against something that has happened. A: "How could you go through my things without asking?" B: "Oh, don't cry foul—I was just looking for my sweater and I found it. It's not a big deal." Dad cried foul when I forgot to put gas in his car after borrowing it.
To become disliked or to come in conflict with due to one's actions, often resulting in further trouble or conflict. Used in the phrase "fall (a)foul of (someone or something)." Since you're new here, be careful not to fall afoul of Bill—he'll keep you off of every case if he's mad at you. I fell foul of the committee, and now, I'm not sure how to improve my reputation.
See also: fall
In baseball, a ball that is hit past the foul line (and thus outside the playing field). I started to run as soon as I heard the bat hit the ball, but it turned out to be a foul ball, so I had to go back to second base.
A jocular term for behavior that is inappropriate, irritating, or unacceptable at a party or other social event. Stop it! Taking handfuls of hors d'oeuvres is definitely a party foul. I can't believe I just spilled wine on the carpet—total party foul!
by fair means or foul
By any means necessary—moral or not. A: "But we're not allowed to submit more than one entry per person." B: "Oh, forget that—we are winning this contest by fair means or foul!"
fall (a)foul of (someone or something)
To become disliked or to come in conflict with someone or something due to one's actions, often resulting in further trouble or conflict. Since you're new here, be careful not to fall afoul of Bill—he'll keep you off of every case if he's mad at you. I fell foul of the committee, and now I'm not sure how to improve my reputation. Ted fell afoul of the law when he was still a kid, and he's been in and out of jail ever since.
Describing one who often uses expletives or other foul language. I don't want that foul-mouthed girl watching our kids ever again—she taught them curse words!
no harm, no foul
If there was no bad outcome to an action, then there's no need to be angry or upset about it. A: "Oh, excuse me! I'm so sorry for knocking over your glass!" B: "It's OK, it was empty. No harm, no foul!"
Unspecified criminal or unscrupulous actions, especially violence when stated as the potential cause of a death or disappearance. That actor actually died of a heart attack—there was no foul play after all. When that much money goes missing, you have to start to suspect foul play.
To mess up or ruin something. The threat of a hurricane really fouled up our vacation plans! Boy, you really fouled up this report, and I don't have time to fix it right now.
foul (one's) own nest
To do something that causes problems for oneself. I'm pretty sure I fouled my own nest when I accidentally insulted the boss's daughter at the Christmas party.
fall (a)foul of someone or somethingand run (a)foul of someone or something
to get into a situation where one is opposed to someone or something; to get into trouble with someone or something. Dan fell afoul of the law at an early age. I hope that you will avoid falling afoul of the district manager. She can be a formidable enemy. I hope I don't run afoul of your sister. She doesn't like me.
foul one's own nest
Fig. to harm one's own interests; to bring disadvantage upon oneself. (Alludes to a bird excreting into its own nest. See also It's an ill bird that fouls its own nest.) He tried to discredit a fellow senator with the president, but just succeeded in fouling his own nest. The boss really dislikes Mary. She certainly fouled her own nest when she spread those rumors about him.
foul out (of something)
[for a basketball player] to be forced out of a game because of having too many fouls. The center fouled out in the first fifteen minutes. Two other players fouled out soon after.
illegal activity; bad practices. The police investigating the death suspect foul play. Each student got an A on the test, and the teacher imagined it was the result of foul play.
foul someone or something up
to cause disorder and confusion for someone or something; to tangle up someone or something; to mess someone or something up. Go away! Don't foul me up any more. You've fouled up my whole day. Watch out! You're going to foul up my kite strings.
to blunder; to mess up. Please don't foul up this time. The quarterback fouled up in the first quarter, and that lost us the game.
messed up; ruined; tangled up. (Usually as fouled-up when attributive.) This is sure a fouled-up mess. You sure are fouled up, you know.
It's an ill bird that fouls its own nest.
Prov. Only a foolish or dishonorable person would bring dishonor to his or her self or his or her surroundings.; Only a bad person would ruin the place where he or she lives. (See also foul one's own nest.) I don't like my new neighbor. Not only does he never mow his lawn, he covers it with all kinds of trash. It's an ill bird that fouls its own nest.
use foul language
Euph. to swear. There's no need to use foul language. When she gets angry, she tends to use foul language.
foul one's nest
Also, foul one's own nest. Hurt one's own interests, as in With his constant complaints about his wife, he's only fouling his own nest. This metaphoric expression transfers a bird's soiling of its nest to human behavior. [Mid-1200s]
Unfair or treacherous action, especially involving violence. For example, The police suspected he had met with foul play. This term originally was and still is applied to unfair conduct in a sport or game and was being used figuratively by the late 1500s. Shakespeare used it in The Tempest (1:2): "What foul play had we, that we came from thence?"
Blunder or cause to blunder; botch, ruin. For example, He's fouled up this report, but I think we can fix it, or Our plans were fouled up by the bad weather. This expression is widely believed to have originated as a euphemism for fuck up. [Colloquial; c. 1940]
run afoul of
Also, run foul of. Come into conflict with, as in If you keep parking illegally you'll run afoul of the police. This expression originated in the late 1600s, when it was applied to a vessel colliding or becoming entangled with another vessel, but at the same time it was transferred to non-nautical usage. Both senses remain current.
by fair means or foul
If someone tries to achieve something by fair means or foul, they use any possible method to achieve it, not caring if their behaviour is dishonest or unfair. They will do everything they can to win, by fair means or foul. She never gave up trying to recover her property, by fair means or foul.
foul your own nestLITERARY
If someone fouls their own nest, they do something which harms themselves and damages their chances of success. Man has invented a hundred ways of fouling his own nest — the grime, the pollution, the heat, the poisons in the air, the metals in the water.
cry foulprotest strongly about a real or imagined wrong or injustice.
Foul in this context means foul play , a violation of the rules of a game to which attention is drawn by shouting ‘foul!’
1998 Times She can't cry foul when subjected to fair and standard competition.
fall foul ofcome into conflict with and be undermined by.
2004 Sunday Business Post Australia's biggest wine-maker, Foster's Group, is the latest company to fall foul of the wine surplus, which is set to continue for at least two years.
foul your own nestdo something damaging or harmful to yourself or your own interests.
The proverb it's an ill bird that fouls its own nest , used of a person who criticizes or abuses their own country or family, has been found in English since the early 15th century.
run foul ofcome into conflict with; go against.
This expression is nautical in origin: when used of a ship it means ‘collide or become entangled with an obstacle or another vessel’. Both literal and figurative uses were current by the late 17th century.
ˌcry ˈfoul(informal) complain that somebody else has done something wrong or unfair: When the Labour party candidate didn’t win the election, he cried foul and demanded a recount.
In sport, a foul is an action that is against the rules of the game.
by ˌfair means or ˈfouleven if unfair methods are used: He’s determined to buy that company by fair means or foul.
fall foul of ˈsb/ˈsthdo something which gets you into trouble with somebody/something: They fell foul of the law by not paying their taxes. ♢ Try not to fall foul of Mr. Jones. He can be very unpleasant.
1. Sports To be put out of a game for exceeding the number of permissible fouls: After committing his fifth foul, the center fouled out and walked off the court.
2. Baseball To strike out by hitting a fly ball that goes foul but is still caught: He fouled out on a pop fly near the dugout on the third base line.
1. To blunder because of mistakes or poor judgment: I've tried many times to pass this test, but this time I really fouled up.
2. To cause someone or something to blunder: The howling dogs distracted me and fouled up my concentration. The pain in my hand fouled me up and I couldn't aim my camera.
3. To clog or became entangled in something: The seaweed fouled up the propeller blades. The dangling cables fouled the machinery up, thereby causing the breakdown.
n. a person who uses obscene language habitually. Sally is turning into a real foul mouth.
1. in. to blunder; to mess up. The quarterback fouled up in the first quarter, and that lost us the game.
2. n. a blunder; an error. (Usually foul-up.) That was a fine foul-up! Is that your specialty?
mod. messed up; ruined; tangled up. You sure are fouled up, you know.