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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. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for circumlocution
Historical Examples
  • Sometimes, angry spirits attacked the circumlocution Office.

    Little Dorrit Charles Dickens
  • The circumlocution has been in vain—you must have guessed it—Ikey adored Rosy.

    The Four Million

    O. Henry
  • He informed Chamberlain, with some circumlocution, that the Frenchman had been extremely anxious over the telegram.

    The Stolen Singer Martha Idell Fletcher Bellinger
  • The Barnacle family had for some time helped to administer the circumlocution Office.

    Little Dorrit Charles Dickens
  • I am like the clerk in the circumlocution Office who always complained bitterly when any one came in to ask information.

  • There was not the slightest flavour of the circumlocution Office about their proceedings.

    The Uncommercial Traveller Charles Dickens
  • We run to the window whenever we feel inclined, and we leave our shades up at dusk without apology or circumlocution.

    The Jonathan Papers Elisabeth Woodbridge Morris
  • He defined the nature and crime of treason with elaboration and circumlocution.

  • The circumlocution and cold categories of Kant fail to improve the conditions of mortals, morally, spiritually, or physically.

    No and Yes Mary Baker Eddy
  • 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 American Heritage® 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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