Definition of unction in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈʌŋ(k)ʃ(ə)n/


[mass noun]
1 formal The action of anointing someone with oil or ointment as a religious rite or as a symbol of investiture as a monarch.
Example sentences
  • Following the designation process, Halpern and Long see an underlying mythos that ritual unction ought to be followed by a battle in which the designated individual demonstrates his worthiness to rule.
  • Exorcisms were performed particularly on those items employed in unction and on holy water, as well as food and drink.
  • Here I would suggest that one of the main secrets of success in the early Church lay in the fact that the early believers believed in unction from on high and not entertainment from men.
1.1 short for extreme unction.
Example sentences
  • Seven sacraments are recognized: baptism in infancy, followed by confirmation with consecrated oil, penance, the Eucharist, matrimony, ordination, and unction in times of sickness or when near death.
  • On your deathbed, convert the padre who comes to give you final unction.
2 archaic Treatment with a medicinal oil or ointment.
2.1 [count noun] An ointment: mercury in the form of unctions
More example sentences
  • Sunday was spent applying more unctions, lotions and poultices than any sane person should ever need.
  • Then there's the wonderfully blue pool, two saunas, two steam rooms and two Jacuzzis, changing rooms steeped in aromatic unctions and potions, hair dryers, cozzie dryers, private showers and complimentary towels.
  • Do you slather the white unction on like cake mixture or go for something a little more moderate?
3A fervent manner of expression apparently arising from deep emotion, especially when assumed: the headlines gloated with the kind of effusive unction only the English press can muster
More example sentences
  • Josafa Vasconcelos, a Presbyterian pastor from Brazil, preached with unction in Portuguese, enjoying the benefit of not having to use an interpreter.
  • James Duncan, preaching with great unction and power, was asked what was the secret of such powerful preaching.


Late Middle English: from Latin unctio(n-), from unguere 'anoint'. sense 3 arises from the link between religious fervour and ‘anointing’ with the Holy Spirit.

  • This is from Latin unctio, from unguere ‘anoint’, also the source of unguent (Late Middle English), and via French of anoint (Middle English) and ointment (Middle English). The phrase extreme unction in the Roman Catholic Church refers to a final anointing of a sick person in danger of death. Unctuous had the early sense ‘greasy; like an ointment’, which rapidly developed into ‘rich’. The sense ‘having spiritual unction’ developed in the mid 18th century, but rapidly developed the sense that this was hypocritical.

Words that rhyme with unction

compunction, conjunction, dysfunction, expunction, function, junction, malfunction, multifunction

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: unc|tion

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