Definition of periphrasis in US English:



  • 1The use of indirect and circumlocutory speech or writing.

    • ‘Such recondite periphrasis brought its own reward.’
    • ‘Can one be an avid fan of a book - or is this lazy-minded periphrasis for ‘favourite’?’
    • ‘When Johnson refers to his mind as ‘Summus… celsa dominator [in] arce ’, the elaborate periphrasis mockingly dramatizes the blustery ‘empty force’ of his mind's pretensions.’
    • ‘The parodic cupid's dart is described with the maximum of periphrasis compatible with not actually disguising what the organ is, ‘a piece of flesh, the characteristic part of a barrow-pig’.’
    • ‘In order to refer to the activity denoted by the F-word, it is necessary to engage in circumlocution or periphrasis.’
    wordiness, verboseness, loquacity, garrulity, talkativeness, volubility, expansiveness, babbling, blathering, waffling, prattling, prating, jabbering, gushing
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 An indirect and circumlocutory phrase.
      ‘a rather pompous periphrasis’
      • ‘This isn't what ‘ineffable’ means: she's using it as a fancy periphrasis for ‘unspeakable’, but its orientation is exactly the opposite.’
      • ‘His deliberate translationese, his consciously awkward periphrases, and yes, his fart jokes suggest that all language, or all poetry, might be as artificial and arbitrary as his own: why not redo ‘Where are the snows of yesteryear?’’
      • ‘Homeric glosses, along with scholarly neologisms and obscure periphrases, are prominent in his poetry.’
      • ‘We intentional animals keep falling into the trap of mistaking the periphrases for the facts.’
      • ‘Her dread is so great that at the end of her progress she does not even allow his name to pass her lips and uses periphrases to talk of him.’
    2. 1.2Grammar The use of separate words to express a grammatical relationship that is otherwise expressed by inflection, e.g., did go as opposed to went and more intelligent as opposed to smarter.


Mid 16th century: via Latin from Greek, from periphrazein, from peri- ‘around’ + phrazein ‘declare’.