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[uh-foul] /əˈfaʊl/
adverb, adjective
in a state of collision or entanglement:
a ship with its shrouds afoul.
run / come / fall afoul of,
  1. to become entangled with:
    The boat ran afoul of the seaweed.
  2. to come into conflict with:
    The business had fallen afoul of the new government regulations.
Origin of afoul
1800-10, Americanism; a-1 + foul Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for afoul
  • Many of the incarcerated mothers were not model parents before they ran afoul of the law.
  • We have all heard disaster stories of foreign campuses forced to close and of offshore ventures falling afoul of host governments.
  • Exceptions require administrators who are willing to do the necessary paperwork and perhaps risk running afoul of their superiors.
  • And there's still a risk that the plan could run afoul of rating agencies, earning the official default stamp.
  • He did not foresee that he might run afoul of the law and wind up ensnared in a public relations nightmare.
  • Youngsters could stay up all night, every night in the summer, without running afoul of the law.
  • Permitting court bailiffs to act as paid supervisors for visitations runs afoul of several of these provisions.
  • And two high school teachers have run afoul of the law after trying to preregister some of their students.
  • The landscape of higher education contains multiple areas where such a process might run afoul.
  • Libraries that have required this type of information historically and/or currently have not necessarily run afoul of the law.
British Dictionary definitions for afoul


adverb, adjective (postpositive)
(usually foll by of) in or into a state of difficulty, confusion, or conflict (with)
(often foll by of) in or into an entanglement or collision (with) (often in the phrase run afoul of): a yacht with its sails afoul, the boat ran afoul of a steamer
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
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Word Origin and History for afoul

"entangled," 1809, originally nautical, now mainly in phrase to run afoul of; from a- (1) + foul.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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