Definition of unctuous in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈʌŋ(k)tjʊəs/


1Excessively flattering or ingratiating; oily: he seemed anxious to please but not in an unctuous way
More example sentences
  • Another commentator derided the presenter's ‘mixture of solicitous concern, unctuous charm and glib moralising.’
  • He is as unctuous as they come and as slippery and lethal as a herd of rattlers in a barrel of oil.
  • I wouldn't waste two seconds listening to that unctuous socialite.
sycophantic, ingratiating, obsequious, fawning, servile, self-abasing, grovelling, subservient, wheedling, cajoling, crawling, cringing, Uriah Heepish, humble, toadying, hypocritical, insincere, flattering, adulatory, honey-tongued, silver-tongued, gushing, effusive, suave, urbane, glib, smooth, smooth-tongued, smooth-spoken, smooth-talking, slick, slippery, saccharine;
oily, oleaginous, greasy;
cloying, nauseating, sickening
informal smarmy, slimy, bootlicking, forelock-tugging, phoney, sucky, soapy
North American informal brown-nosing, apple-polishing
British vulgar slang arse-licking, bum-sucking
North American vulgar slang ass-kissing, kiss-ass
rare saponaceous, pinguid
2(Chiefly of minerals) having a greasy or soapy feel.
Example sentences
  • Still, the lure of any luxury item - whether it be Beluga caviar, Dom Perignon champagne or an unctuous blob of sea-urchin roe - springs partly from its cost.



Pronunciation: /ˈʌŋ(k)tjʊəsli/
Example sentences
  • ‘Neither pots nor pans, nor dish nor spoon should be spared,’ he announced unctuously.
  • He and his foreign minister have unctuously said that ‘force is always the last resort.’
  • As one settles in amid the eminently tasteful pine green and deep brown colour scheme, one is instantaneously attended to by the most unctuously helpful staff.


Pronunciation: /ˈʌŋ(k)tjʊəsnəs/
Example sentences
  • It is every thing that one could hope for in a dessert wine, complex flavours (a veritable fruit bowl of exotic fruits), unctuousness, sweetness without being cloying thanks to a hint of noble rot.
  • An assembly of fresh wild mushrooms was heavily scented with dried ceps, the cheese had been employed with restraint, adding unctuousness to the sauce, and interesting secondary flavour.
  • Maybe not, but what gratifying editorial unctuousness… Will I blurb a book because its editor implores me charmingly?


Late Middle English (in the sense 'greasy'): from medieval Latin unctuosus, from Latin unctus 'anointing', from unguere 'anoint'.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: unc¦tu|ous

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.