Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Fulsome

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is fulsome. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Fulsome can be a positive term, as when it’s used to mean “abundant, copious,” or “full and well developed,” but it has negative meanings too, such as “overdone” and “excessively flattering.”

// The photographs celebrate the island’s fulsome biodiversity.

// While most of the speeches expressed sincere appreciation for the outgoing CEO’s leadership, some were dense with fulsome and cringeworthy accolades.

FULSOME in Context

“The county executive isn’t opposed in principle to bonds for housing, but thinks county leaders need to have a more fulsome discussion about tradeoffs such debt would require.” — Dan Brendel, The Washington (D.C.) Business Journal, 10 May 2022

Did You Know?

In the 19th century, fulsome was mostly a literary term used disapprovingly to describe excessive, insincere praise and flattery. This meaning is still current, but since the early 20th century fulsome has been increasingly used with far more positive meanings, among them “abundant, copious” and “full and well developed.” The result is some amount of confusion: a phrase like “fulsome praise” used today without clarifying context may rightly be understood to mean either “abundant praise” or “excessive and obsequious praise.” While some critics object to the pleasanter meanings of fulsome, they are in fact true to the word’s origins: when it was first used in the 14th century fulsome meant “abundant, copious.”

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