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See more synonyms for circumlocution on Thesaurus.com
  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-kuhm-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

Synonyms for circumlocution

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1. rambling, meandering, verbosity, prolixity.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for circumlocutory

ambiguous, tortuous, oblique, incidental, implied, ancillary, circuitous, backhanded, vague, collateral, roundabout, circular, rambling, meandering, loose, long, lavish, dull, waffling, complicated

Examples from the Web for circumlocutory

Historical Examples of circumlocutory

  • 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.