It May Be Fulsome, But It Isn't Full

The principal meaning of 'fulsome', the ever-handy Macquarie Dictionary tells us, is "lavish, unstinted". However, the correct spelling doesn't include a lavish number of Ls. In other words, don't spell it 'fullsome'.

Gorging picture from Shutterstock

This mistake pops up with some frequency online. Here's a recent example from the Daily Telegraph:

He says there was a "fullsome and detailed discussion" in setting the guidance framework.

No, there wasn't.

Words with 'full' at the front of them generally use a hyphen (such as 'full-fledged' or 'full-blown'). The only example in English that the Macquarie lists which starts with 'full' and no hyphen with a double-L is 'fullness'. That makes 'fulsome' an annoying exception, but annoying exceptions are a frequent curse for English speakers. We have to deal with them. Accuracy matters.

Lifehacker's Mind Your Language column offers bossy advice on improving your writing.


    Well into my 50's, don't believe I've ever heard or read the word "fulsome" and I've read an awful lot of books in my time...!

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