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[sur-kuh m-loh-kyoo-shuh n]
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  1. a roundabout or indirect way of speaking; the use of more words than necessary to express an idea.
  2. a roundabout expression.
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Origin of circumlocution

1375–1425; late Middle English < Latin circumlocūtiōn- (stem of circumlocūtiō). See circum-, locution
Related formscir·cum·loc·u·to·ry [sur-kuh m-lok-yuh-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee] /ˌsɜr kəmˈlɒk yəˌtɔr i, -ˌtoʊr i/, cir·cum·lo·cu·tion·al, cir·cum·lo·cu·tion·ar·y, adjectiveun·cir·cum·loc·u·to·ry, adjective


See more synonyms for circumlocution on Thesaurus.com
1. rambling, meandering, verbosity, prolixity.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for circumlocutory

Historical Examples

  • Herbert has a circumlocutory manner over the phone which irritates me.

    Sight Unseen

    Mary Roberts Rinehart

  • To come to the point, without any circumlocutory delay, I am a young man with aspirations far above my station in life.

    Ruth Hall

    Fanny Fern

  • Allusions were made to it in a circumlocutory style: "The place you know—a certain street—at the bottom of the Bridges."

  • Certainly I was born under Cancer, and all my movements are circumlocutory, sideways, and crab-like.

    The Caxtons, Complete

    Edward Bulwer-Lytton

  • The practice thus forced upon one in employing a Chinese servant is useful in preventing a circumlocutory habit of speech.

British Dictionary definitions for circumlocutory


  1. an indirect way of expressing something
  2. an indirect expression
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Derived Formscircumlocutory (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

Word Origin and History for circumlocutory



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).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

circumlocutory in Culture



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.”

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