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Main Entry: ful·some
Pronunciation: 'ful-s&m
Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English fulsom copious, cloying, from full + -som -some
Date: 13th century
1 a : characterized by abundance : COPIOUS <describes in fulsome detail -- G. N. Shuster> <fulsome bird life. The feeder overcrowded -- Maxine Kumin> b : generous in amount, extent, or spirit <the passengers were fulsome in praise of the plane's crew -- Don Oliver> <a fulsome victory for the far left -- Bruce Rothwell> <the greetings have been fulsome, the farewells tender -- Simon Gray> c : being full and well developed <she was in generally fulsome, limpid voice -- Thor Eckert, Jr.>
2 : aesthetically, morally, or generally offensive <fulsome lies and nauseous flattery -- William Congreve> <the devil take thee for a...fulsome rogue -- George Villiers>
3 : exceeding the bounds of good taste : OVERDONE <the fulsome chromium glitter of the escalators dominating the central hall -- Lewis Mumford>
4 : excessively complimentary or flattering : EFFUSIVE <an admiration whose extent I did not express, lest I be thought fulsome -- A. J. Liebling>
- ful·some·ly adverb
- ful·some·ness noun
usage The senses shown above are the chief living senses of fulsome. Sense 2, which was a generalized term of disparagement in the late 17th century, is the least common of these. Fulsome became a point of dispute when sense 1, thought to be obsolete in the 19th century, began to be revived in the 20th. The dispute was exacerbated by the fact that the large dictionaries of the first half of the century missed the beginnings of the revival. Sense 1 has not only been revived but has spread in its application and continues to do so. The chief danger for the user of fulsome is ambiguity. Unless the context is made very clear, the reader or hearer cannot be sure whether such an expression as "fulsome praise" is meant in sense 1b or in sense 4.

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