[uhngk-choo-uh s]
See more synonyms for unctuous on Thesaurus.com
  1. characterized by excessive piousness or moralistic fervor, especially in an affected manner; excessively smooth, suave, or smug.
  2. of the nature of or characteristic of an unguent or ointment; oily; greasy.
  3. having an oily or soapy feel, as certain minerals.

Origin of unctuous

1350–1400; Middle English < Medieval Latin ūnctuōsus, equivalent to Latin ūnctu(s) act of anointing (ung(uere) to smear, anoint + -tus suffix of v. action) + -ōsus -ous
Related formsunc·tu·ous·ly, adverbunc·tu·ous·ness, unc·tu·os·i·ty [uhngk-choo-os-i-tee] /ˌʌŋk tʃuˈɒs ɪ ti/, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for unctuous

Contemporary Examples of unctuous

Historical Examples of unctuous

  • She laughed a rich, unctuous laugh, and stretched her hands to the blaze.

    Tiverton Tales

    Alice Brown

  • A voice, which was unctuous and insinuative, emanated from the figure.

    The Black Bag

    Louis Joseph Vance

  • "I haven't the slightest doubt of it," Bobby responded, with unctuous emphasis.

    The Dominant Strain

    Anna Chapin Ray

  • All this came out of her like an unctuous trickle of some acrid oil.

    The Arrow of Gold

    Joseph Conrad

  • "The member is unduly excited," replied the chairman, in his most unctuous tones.

    A Woman for Mayor

    Helen M. Winslow

British Dictionary definitions for unctuous


  1. slippery or greasy
  2. affecting an oily charm
Derived Formsunctuosity (ˌʌŋktjʊˈɒsɪtɪ) or unctuousness, noununctuously, adverb

Word Origin for unctuous

C14: from Medieval Latin unctuōsus, from Latin unctum ointment, from ungere to anoint
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 unctuous

late 14c., "oily," from Old French unctueus, from Medieval Latin unctuosus "greasy," from Latin unctus "act of anointing," from past participle stem of unguere "to anoint" (see unguent).

Figurative sense of "blandly ingratiating" is first recorded 1742, perhaps in part with a literal sense, but in part a sarcastic usage from unction in the meaning "deep spiritual feeling" (1690s), such as comes from having been anointed in the rite of unction. Related: Unctuously; unctuousness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

unctuous in Medicine


  1. Containing or composed of oil or fat.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.