fulsome

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

From Middle English fulsum, equivalent to full +‎ -some. The meaning has evolved from an original positive connotation "abundant" to a neutral "plump" to a negative "overfed". In modern usage it can take on any of these inflections. See usage note

Adjective[edit]

fulsome (comparative more fulsome, superlative most fulsome)

  1. Offensive to good taste, tactless, overzealous, excessive.
    • 1726, Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels, Part IV, Chapter VIII
      I immediately stripped myself stark naked, and went down softly into the stream. It happened that a young female YAHOO, standing behind a bank, saw the whole proceeding, and inflamed by desire . . . embraced me after a most fulsome manner.
    • 1820, Sir Walter Scott, The Monastery, ch. 35:
      You will hear the advanced enfans perdus, as the French call them, and so they are indeed, namely, children of the fall, singing unclean and fulsome ballads of sin and harlotrie.
  2. Excessively flattering (connoting insincerity).
    • 1889, Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, ch. 34:
      And by hideous contrast, a redundant orator was making a speech to another gathering not thirty steps away, in fulsome laudation of "our glorious British liberties!"
    • 1922, James Joyce, Ulysses, Episode 15—Circe:
      Mrs. Bellingham: He addressed me in several handwritings with fulsome compliments as a Venus in furs.
  3. Abundant, copious.
    The fulsome thanks of the war-torn nation lifted our weary spirits.
  4. Fully developed, mature.
    Her fulsome timbre resonated throughout the hall.

Usage notes[edit]

  • Common usage tends toward the negative connotation, and using fulsome in the sense of abundant, copious, or mature may lead to confusion without contextual prompts.

Synonyms[edit]

Derived terms[edit]