Definition of periphrastic in English:



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

    ‘the periphrastic nature of legal syntax’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘His prose is both compressed and periphrastic.’
    • ‘Labor is simply the complementary of leisure, and the two together are the periphrastic equivalent of life.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The translations by his champion Rufinus are often freer and more periphrastic than those of Jerome, in the interests of orthodoxy and of clarity.’
    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)
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘As the lexicon expands, the clumsy but motivated compounds and periphrastic expressions disappear.’
      • ‘I'm not even going to pause to point and laugh at the absurd periphrastic present in the last line of the first verse.’
      • ‘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.’


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