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[foo l-suh m, fuhl-] /ˈfʊl səm, ˈfʌl-/
offensive to good taste, especially as being excessive; overdone or gross:
fulsome praise that embarrassed her deeply; fulsome décor.
disgusting; sickening; repulsive:
a table heaped with fulsome mounds of greasy foods.
excessively or insincerely lavish:
fulsome admiration.
encompassing all aspects; comprehensive:
a fulsome survey of the political situation in Central America.
abundant or copious.
1200-50; Middle English fulsom. See full1, -some1
Related forms
fulsomely, adverb
fulsomeness, noun
unfulsome, adjective
Can be confused
full, fullness, fulsome.
fulsome, noisome (see usage note at the current entry)
Usage note
In the 13th century when it was first used, fulsome meant simply “abundant or copious.” It later developed additional senses of “offensive, gross” and “disgusting, sickening,” probably by association with foul, and still later a sense of excessiveness: a fulsome disease; a fulsome meal, replete with too much of everything. For some centuries fulsome was used exclusively, or nearly so, with these unfavorable meanings.
Today, both fulsome and fulsomely are also used in senses closer to the original one: The sparse language of the new Prayer Book contrasts with the fulsome language of Cranmer's Book of Common Prayer. Later they discussed the topic more fulsomely. These uses are often criticized on the grounds that fulsome must always retain its connotations of “excessive” or “offensive.” The common phrase fulsome praise is thus sometimes ambiguous in modern use. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for fulsome
  • It is a liquid word, a fulsome and high-sounding word.
  • And last weekend even hardline communists paid fulsome tribute.
  • Grinning from ear to ear, they charmed us with folk-ditties, fulsome harmonies and foot-stomping accompaniment.
  • Additionally, detainees must have fulsome procedures that allow them to test the legality of their detention.
  • For example, it is not enough to seek input from the public without recognizing the need to provide thoughtful, fulsome responses.
  • For all other properties, the owner will need to include a more fulsome explanation of the building's significance.
  • The discussions leading to this concurrence were fulsome and substantive.
  • But let me get back to you with a little bit more fulsome statement later in the day.
  • And that therefore you would have a better more fulsome rating than you would have had without it.
  • Serve but a few courses and nothing heavy or of such nature as to give the idea of fulsome ness.
British Dictionary definitions for fulsome


excessive or insincere, esp in an offensive or distasteful way: fulsome compliments
(not standard) extremely complimentary
(informal) full, rich or abundant: a fulsome figure, a fulsome flavour, fulsome detail
(archaic) disgusting; loathsome
Derived Forms
fulsomely, adverb
fulsomeness, noun
Usage note
The use of fulsome to mean extremely complimentary or full, rich or abundant is common in journalism, but should be avoided in other kinds of writing
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 fulsome

Middle English compound of ful "full" (see full (adj.)) + -som (see -some (1)). Sense evolved from "abundant, full" (mid-13c.) to "plump, well-fed" (mid-14c.) to "overgrown, overfed" (1640s) and thus, of language, "offensive to taste or good manners" (1660s). Since the 1960s, however, it commonly has been used in its original, favorable sense, especially in fulsome praise. Related: Fulsomely; fulsomeness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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