Definition of circumlocution in English:



  • [mass noun] The use of many words where fewer would do, especially in a deliberate attempt to be vague or evasive:

    ‘his admission came after years of circumlocution’
    [count noun] ‘he used a number of poetic circumlocutions’
    • ‘Everyday language uses a number of euphemisms, including polite formulas, circumlocutions, allusions, and stock phrases.’
    • ‘He is witty, he puns, and sometimes he employs the polysyllabic circumlocution of the nineteenth-century humorists.’
    • ‘Alas, for every valuable insight which emerges, we find a greater proportion of heady rhetoric and circumlocution.’
    • ‘The company has dispensed with traditional legal circumlocution with its latest court filings against its rival.’
    • ‘He has wisely retained many Marathi words in the text, thus avoiding plodding English circumlocutions such as ‘flat millet bread’ for bhakri.’
    • ‘O'Neill, despite his apparent affability and a tendency to circumlocution, is a tough little nut.’
    • ‘Americans, in particular the US military-industrial complex, are masters of jargon and circumlocution, but they can't be blamed for everything.’
    • ‘Large bureaucracies seem to inherently foster a culture that favours circumlocution, jargon and euphemism.’
    • ‘The replies I got were pure circumlocution and double talk, nowadays referred to as spin.’
    • ‘There was a good deal of rhetoric, circumlocution and imprecision in language.’
    • ‘In Wales, the leadership of Plaid Cymru was always a bit bashful about independence, resorting to circumlocutions like ‘full national status’.’
    • ‘Her style can only be described as hectoring, irritating and occasionally maddening in its circumlocution.’
    • ‘The Navajo language is complex, and through circumlocution the Code Talkers made it even more so.’
    • ‘No more circumlocution - just tell us, straight out: what are we supposed to do?’
    • ‘In order to refer to that activity, it is necessary to engage in circumlocution or periphrasis.’
    • ‘Other common strategies used to save face for others include the use of circumlocution and equivocation when criticism of another's performance is unavoidable.’
    • ‘Pidgins may compensate for lack of vocabulary through circumlocution.’
    • ‘Despite the circumlocution used, the parties all appeared to understand one another.’
    • ‘A certain kind of Briton prefers circumlocution and euphemism for even everyday speech: ‘I wonder if I could trouble you for a glass of water?’’
    • ‘He produced yet another quite captivating display of loquacious circumlocution as he tackled questions from the press about the way he has run the team recently.’
    periphrasis, circuitousness, indirectness
    tautology, repetition, repetitiveness, repetitiousness, diffuseness, discursiveness, long-windedness, verbosity, wordiness, prolixity, verbiage, redundancy, superfluity
    beating about the bush
    pleonasm, perissology
    View synonyms


Late Middle English: from Latin circumlocutio(n-) (translating Greek periphrasis), from circum around + locutio(n-) from loqui speak.