Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Offensively flattering or insincere. See Synonyms at unctuous.
  • adj. Offensive to the taste or sensibilities.
  • adj. Usage Problem Copious or abundant.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Offensive to good taste, tactless, overzealous, excessive.
  • adj. Excessively flattering (connoting insincerity).
  • adj. Abundant, copious.
  • adj. Fully developed, mature.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Full; abundant; plenteous; not shriveled.
  • adj. Offending or disgusting by overfullness, excess, or grossness; cloying; gross; nauseous; esp., offensive from excess of praise.
  • adj. Lustful; wanton; obscene; also, tending to obscenity.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Full; full and plump; fat.
  • Causing surfeit; cloying.
  • Offensive from excess, as of praise or demonstrative affection; gross.
  • Nauseous; offensive; disgusting.
  • Lustful; wanton.
  • Tending to obscenity; coarse: as, a fulsome epigram.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. unpleasantly and excessively suave or ingratiating in manner or speech

Etymologies

Middle English fulsom, abundant, well-fed, arousing disgust : ful, full; see full1 + -som, adj. suff.; see -some1.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
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 (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • V. i.112 (241,5) [as fat and fulsome] [W: flat] _Fat_ means _dull_; so we say a _fatheaded_ fellow; _fat_ likewise means _gross_, and is sometimes used for _obscene_; and _fat_ is more congruent to _fulsome_ than _flat_.

    Notes to Shakespeare — Volume 01: Comedies

  • The word fulsome is itself becoming incomprehensible.

    The Globe and Mail - Home RSS feed

  • Whichever approach reviewers of Suite Française took — whether they followed the ‘lost book by dead writer’ angle, or played the French guilt card — they all used the limited space left after biography to indulge in fulsome but often strangely detached praise.

    Book Reviewing

  • Holocaust survivor and winner of many literary awards and lauded in fulsome tones

    Second-Hand Birthday Confessions

  • “He came to us in fulsome state and told us of thee a thing which Heaven forfend; and the slave added a lie which it befitteth not to repeat, Allah preserve thy youth and sound sense and tongue of eloquence, and forbid to come from thee aught of offense!”

    The Book of The Thousand Nights And A Night

  • Never refer to a fulsome bosom unless you want to get slugged by an intelligent woman.

    No Uncertain Terms

  • "And even that could scarce be termed fulsome flattery," I observed.

    Nancy Stair A Novel

  • Can someone with contacts please explain to Sky News (and, surprisingly, Matthew Parris) what "fulsome" actually means? john miller

    Tony Blair: The Next Labour Prime Minister?

  • You were right about the 'fulsome praise' for single mothers, but you might want to look up the meaning of the word 'fulsome'.

    Bright New Dawn

  • The misspelling of "fulsome" is obvious, but the word itself invites problems.

    The Globe and Mail - Home RSS feed

Comments

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  • so what do you do with a contranym - do you use it smugly, knowing that you're right, or to you avoid for fear that no matter what you do you'll always be wrong.

    October 6, 2007

  • Contranymic in the sense of fulsome praise being both negative (insincere, ironic) and positive (abundantly meritorious).

    September 30, 2007