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1. archaic : rich harvest;
2. chiefly Scottish : physical energy or strength;
3. plural, obsolete : resources.

1. “Earth’s increase, foison plenty, / Barns and garners* never empty; / Vines with clust’ring bunches growing, / Plants with goodly burden bowing.…” — From Shakespeare’s 1623 play The Tempest.
2. “Thither the extremely large wains bring foison of the fields….” — From James Joyce’s 1922 novel Ulysses.

[*”Garner” can refer to a building or a bin in which grain is stored. It is entered in Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged.]

The definition of “foison” is amply supplied with labels; they appear at each of the definition’s three senses, and they all suggest that it’s unlikely that you’ll come across “foison” in your general reading. The word did appear, however, in some reading material that was probably familiar to some of the Mayflower’s pilgrims: the late 16th century sermons of Henry Smith. One of those sermons included the following: “Such a foison hath your alms, that by the blessing of God … it increases like the widow’s meal….” “Foison” comes from Latin “fusion-, fusio,” meaning “outpouring,” which in turn comes from “fundere,” meaning “to pour”—the same source as that of the words “profuse” and “refund,” among others.

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