Etymology
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afoul (adv.)

1809, originally nautical, "in a state of collision or entanglement," from a- (1) + foul (adj.). From 1833 in general sense of "in violent or hostile conflict," mainly in phrases such as run afoul of.

updated on November 18, 2016

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Definitions of afoul from WordNet

afoul (adj.)
especially of a ship's lines etc;
with its sails afoul
Synonyms: foul / fouled
From wordnet.princeton.edu, not affiliated with etymonline.