You can serve as a foil to someone if you show them to be better than you by contrast. If you can’t dance but your friend Lisa can, you can be a foil to Lisa’s grace.

If you’re having trouble remembering this definition, think about a shiny piece of tin foil. It reflects an image back to you, so if you’re a foil to someone, their image is reflected off of you in a positive light. Your brother’s mediocre grades might serve as a foil to your intelligence. As a verb, if you foil someone’s plans or attempts to do something, you cause them to fail. Your brother will be really mad if you foil his plans to hide his mediocre report card from your parents.

Definitions of foil
  1. verb

    hinder or prevent (the efforts, plans, or desires) of

    foil your opponent”
    baffle, bilk, cross, frustrate, queer, scotch, scuttle, spoil, thwart
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    disappoint, let down

    fail to meet the hopes or expectations of

    destroy or break

    hamper the progress of; impede

    destroy or cause to fail
    betray, fail

    disappoint, prove undependable to; abandon, forsake
    come short, fall short

    fail to meet (expectations or standards)
    disenchant, disillusion

    free from enchantment

    cause the ruin or downfall of

    cause the failure or ruin of

    ruin utterly
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    forbid, foreclose, forestall, preclude, preempt, prevent

    keep from happening or arising; make impossible

  2. noun

    a piece of thin and flexible sheet metal

    “the photographic film was wrapped in
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    aluminium foil, aluminum foil, tin foil

    foil made of aluminum

    foil in thin strips; ejected into the air as a radar countermeasure
    gold foil

    foil made of gold
    tin foil, tinfoil

    foil made of tin or an alloy of tin and lead
    gold leaf

    a very thin form of gold foil
    type of:

    sheet metal

    sheet of metal formed into a thin plate

  3. verb

    cover or back with foil

    foil mirrors”
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    provide with a covering or cause to be covered

  4. noun

    anything that serves by contrast to call attention to another thing’s good qualities

    “pretty girls like plain friends as
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    a general interest that leads people to want to know more

  5. noun

    picture consisting of a positive photograph or drawing on a transparent base; viewed with a projector

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    lantern slide, slide

    a transparency mounted in a frame; viewed with a slide projector
    overhead, viewgraph

    a transparency for use with an overhead projector
    type of:

    icon, ikon, image, picture

    a visual representation (of an object or scene or person or abstraction) produced on a surface

  6. verb

    enhance by contrast

    “In this picture, the figures are
    foiled against the background”
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    contrast, counterpoint

    show differences when compared; be different

  7. noun

    a light slender flexible sword tipped by a button

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    fencing sword

    a sword used in the sport of fencing

  8. noun

    a device consisting of a flat or curved piece (as a metal plate) so that its surface reacts to the water it is passing through

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    an instrumentality invented for a particular purpose

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