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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.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
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.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
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?"
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.