1. The first meaning of fulsome was ‘copious, abundant’, but it had lost this along with other meanings by the 16c and acquired an unfavourable sense ‘excessive, cloying’, especially with reference to praise or flattery. This meaning remained the dominant one until the second half of the 20c, when fulsome began to be used in favourable meanings, so that fulsome praise meant high or lavish praise rather than excessive or nauseating praise. This new use, more common in AmE but increasingly found in BrE too, should be avoided, because the adverse meaning is still much in use and there is a danger of unfortunate misunderstanding. Examples of erroneous and correct uses follow:

• ☒ Critics, who insist the Pope has not gone far enough in apologising, will be expecting him to express fulsome remorse —Irish News, 2006

• I Walks surefootedly through the minefield that separates fulsome idolatry from condescending anecdotal chit-chat —Times Literary Supplement, 1977.

Useful alternatives to fulsome in the erroneous ‘favourable’ sense include lavish, generous, enthusiastic, effusive, exuberant, copious, glowing, and extravagant.
2. Fulsome is also occasionally used to mean ‘full-figured’, with reference to a woman's figure, by fashion writers who analyse the word as consisting of full + -some as in handsome, wholesome, etc.:

• The craze for the fulsome figure…may come to an end sometime in the next couple of decades, say those in the know —Sunday Times, 1998.

Modern English usage. 2014.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • fulsome — fulsome, oily, unctuous, oleaginous, slick, soapy are comparable when they mean too obviously extravagant or ingratiating to be accepted as genuine or sincere. Fulsome stresses a surfeit of something which in proper measure is not displeasing but …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • Fulsome — Ful some, a. [Full, a. + some.] 1. Full; abundant; plenteous; not shriveled. [Obs.] [1913 Webster] His lean, pale, hoar, and withered corpse grew fulsome, fair, and fresh. Golding. [1913 Webster] 2. Offending or disgusting by overfullness, excess …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • fulsome — ► ADJECTIVE 1) complimentary or flattering to an excessive degree. 2) of large size or quantity; generous or abundant: fulsome details. DERIVATIVES fulsomely adverb fulsomeness noun. USAGE Although the earliest sense of fulsome was ‘abundant’,… …   English terms dictionary

  • fulsome — M.E. compound of ful full (see FULL (Cf. full) (adj.)) + som (see SOME (Cf. some)). 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 …   Etymology dictionary

  • fulsome — [fool′səm] adj. [ME fulsom, abundant, disgustingly excessive < ful, FULL1 + som, SOME1, but infl. by ful, FOUL] 1. disgusting or offensive, esp. because excessive or insincere [fulsome praise] 2. [apparent revival …   English World dictionary

  • fulsome — index arrant (onerous), bad (inferior), bad (offensive), contemptible, detrimental, excessive …   Law dictionary

  • fulsome — [adj] sickening or excessive behavior adulatory, bombastic, buttery*, canting, cloying, coarse, extravagant, fawning, flattering, glib, grandiloquent, hypocritical, immoderate, ingratiating, inordinate, insincere, magniloquent, mealy mouthed*,… …   New thesaurus

  • fulsome — 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 …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • fulsome — fulsomely, adv. fulsomeness, n. /fool seuhm, ful /, adj. 1. offensive to good taste, esp. as being excessive; overdone or gross: fulsome praise that embarrassed her deeply; fulsome décor. 2. disgusting; sickening; repulsive: a table heaped with… …   Universalium

  • fulsome — ful•some [[t]ˈfʊl səm, ˈfʌl [/t]] adj. 1) offensive to good taste, esp. as being excessive; overdone: fulsome décor[/ex] 2) disgusting; sickening; repulsive: fulsome mounds of greasy foods[/ex] 3) cvb excessively or insincerely lavish: fulsome… …   From formal English to slang

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