c. 1300, foilen "to spoil a trace or scent by running over it" (more commonly defoilen), irregularly from Old French foler, fuler "trample on, injure, maim; ill-treat, deceive, get the better of" (13c., Modern French fouler), from Vulgar Latin *fullare "to clean cloth" (by treading on it), from Latin fullo "one who cleans cloth, a fuller," which is of unknown origin. Compare full (v.).
Hence, "to overthrow, defeat" (1540s; as a noun in this sense from late 15c.); "frustrate the efforts of" (1560s). Related: Foiled; foiling. Foiled again! as a cry of defeat and dismay is from at least 1847.