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[sur-kuh m-loh-kyoo-shuh n] /ˌsɜr kəm loʊˈkyu ʃən/
a roundabout or indirect way of speaking; the use of more words than necessary to express an idea.
a roundabout expression.
Origin of circumlocution
late Middle English
1375-1425; late Middle English < Latin circumlocūtiōn- (stem of circumlocūtiō). See circum-, locution
Related forms
[sur-kuh m-lok-yuh-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee] /ˌsɜr kəmˈlɒk yəˌtɔr i, -ˌtoʊr i/ (Show IPA),
circumlocutional, circumlocutionary, adjective
uncircumlocutory, adjective
1. rambling, meandering, verbosity, prolixity. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for circumlocution
Historical Examples
  • All this is true, but the circumlocution Office went beyond it.

    Little Dorrit Charles Dickens
  • Sometimes, angry spirits attacked the circumlocution Office.

    Little Dorrit Charles Dickens
  • The Barnacle family had for some time helped to administer the circumlocution Office.

    Little Dorrit Charles Dickens
  • I am glad to see you again, and in a healthier place than the circumlocution Office.'

    Little Dorrit Charles Dickens
  • You are the levers of the circumlocution Office, and the rulers of men.

    Little Dorrit Charles Dickens
  • There was not the slightest flavour of the circumlocution Office about their proceedings.

    The Uncommercial Traveller Charles Dickens
  • How different from the days when Dickens wrote his 'circumlocution Office'!

    The Burning Spear John Galsworthy
  • There is no circumlocution nor ambiguity of expression here.

  • He defined the nature and crime of treason with elaboration and circumlocution.

  • Dick of the Syke was not to be beaten for lack of the logic of circumlocution.

    A Son of Hagar

    Sir Hall Caine
British Dictionary definitions for circumlocution


an indirect way of expressing something
an indirect expression
Derived Forms
circumlocutory (ˌsɜːkəmˈlɒkjʊtərɪ; -trɪ) adjective
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for circumlocution

c.1400, from Latin circumlocutionem (nominative circumlocutio) "a speaking around" (the topic), from circum- "around" (see circum-) + locutionem (nominative locutio) "a speaking," noun of action from past participle stem of loqui "to speak" (see locution). A loan-translation of Greek periphrasis (see periphrasis).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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circumlocution in Culture
circumlocution [(sur-kuhm-loh-kyooh-shuhn)]

Roundabout speech or writing: “The driveway was not unlike that military training device known as an obstacle course” is a circumlocution for “The driveway resembled an obstacle course.” Circumlocution comes from Latin words meaning “speaking around.”

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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