Foul or Fowl?

by Craig Shrives
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.
foul or fowl?


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."

Common Terms with "Foul" and "Fowl"

Common terms with the word "foul":
  • foul smelling
  • foul play
  • to cry foul
  • to fall foul of
Common terms with the word "fowl":
  • wild fowl
  • guinea fowl
  • water fowl
Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

See Also

adverse or averse? affect or effect? appraise or apprise? avenge or revenge? bare or bear? complement or compliment? dependant or dependent? discreet or discrete? disinterested or uninterested? e.g. or i.e.? envy or jealousy? imply or infer? its or it's? material or materiel? poisonous or venomous? practice or practise? principal or principle? tenant or tenet? who's or whose? What are adjectives? What are nouns? List of easily confused words