Definition of periphrastic in English:



  • 1(of speech or writing) indirect and circumlocutory.

    ‘the periphrastic nature of legal syntax’
    • ‘Labor is simply the complementary of leisure, and the two together are the periphrastic equivalent of life.’
    • ‘I spoke a little while ago about ‘dialogue across societies’ and, perhaps, you thought this was just a periphrastic way of invoking cross-cultural dialogue.’
    • ‘The translations by his champion Rufinus are often freer and more periphrastic than those of Jerome, in the interests of orthodoxy and of clarity.’
    • ‘In journalism, short and clear is better than long and wordy; reporters generally don't have the space or time to reach for periphrastic phrasings when something more direct is available.’
    • ‘His prose is both compressed and periphrastic.’
    circumlocutory, circuitous, roundabout, indirect, tautological, prolix, verbose, wordy, long-winded, rambling, wandering, tortuous, diffuse, discursive
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    1. 1.1Grammar (of a case or tense) formed by a combination of words rather than by inflection (such as did go and of the people rather than went and the people's).
      • ‘Now, come back to the non-complementarity between the logophoric pronoun and the regular pronoun in, which is usually found in periphrastic logophoric constructions in African languages.’
      • ‘I'm not even going to pause to point and laugh at the absurd periphrastic present in the last line of the first verse.’
      • ‘As the lexicon expands, the clumsy but motivated compounds and periphrastic expressions disappear.’
      • ‘Most adverbs allow only periphrastic comparison (happily/more happily/most happily), but a few are suppletive: badly/worse/worst; well/better/best.’
      • ‘No one would claim that modern Japanese culture is one in which it is unnecessary to talk about the future, but Japanese has no future tense, not even a periphrastic one like English.’


Early 19th century: from Greek periphrastikos, from periphrazein ‘declare in a roundabout way’.