That which sets off something to advantage. The allusion is to
the metallic leaf used by jewellers to set off precious stones.
(French, feuille; Latin, folium; Greek, phullon, a
“Hector, as a foil to set him off.”
I'll be your foil, Laertes. In mine ignorance
Your skill shall, like a star i' the darkest night,
Stick flery off indeed.
Shakespeare: Hamlet, v. 2.
He foiled me.
He outwitted me.
“If I be foiled, there is but one ashamod who never was gracious.” —Shakespeare: As You Like It, i. 2.
To run a foil.
To puzzle; to lead astray. The track of game is called its foil;
and an animal hunted will sometimes run back over the same foil in
order to mislead its pursuers.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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