Grammar Monster
Grammar Monster

Foul or Fowl?

The Quick Answer
What is the difference between foul and fowl?

Foul is an adjective used to describe something revolting or distasteful. Foul is also a noun to denote unfair play in sport.
  • In fair weather, you must prepare for foul weather. (Thomas Fuller)
  • "That was a foul, referee."
Fowl is a noun that refers to birds, namely gamefowl, landfowl, and waterfowl.
  • Many birds that are eaten by humans are fowl, including poultry such as chickens or turkeys.


The adjective foul describes something repulsive. In sport, the noun foul is a violation of the rules of the game.

  • It is better to use fair means and fail than foul means and conquer. (Sallust)
  • Golf is the only game I know where you call a foul on yourself. (Joe Torre)


The noun fowl describes birds. Fowl can be barnyard, domesticated, or wild birds.

  • People always say "Etta, you know what your problem is? You're neither fish nor fowl. There is no place to rack you." (Etta James)
  • Many languages do not distinguish between "poultry" and "fowl."
Interactive Test
Top Tip

A Way to Remember Fowl

Let the owl in fowl remind you that fowl is a bird.