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periphrasis Line breaks: peri|phrasis
Pronunciation: /pəˈrɪfrəsɪs/

Definition of periphrasis in English:

noun (plural periphrases pəˈrɪfrəsiːz)

[mass noun]
1The use of indirect and circumlocutory speech or writing.
Example sentences
  • In order to refer to the activity denoted by the F-word, it is necessary to engage in circumlocution or periphrasis.
  • When Johnson refers to his mind as ‘Summus… celsa dominator [in] arce ’, the elaborate periphrasis mockingly dramatizes the blustery ‘empty force’ of his mind's pretensions.
  • The parodic cupid's dart is described with the maximum of periphrasis compatible with not actually disguising what the organ is, ‘a piece of flesh, the characteristic part of a barrow-pig’.
1.1 [count noun] An indirect and circumlocutory phrase: a rather pompous periphrasis
More example sentences
  • Her dread is so great that at the end of her progress she does not even allow his name to pass her lips and uses periphrases to talk of him.
  • His deliberate translationese, his consciously awkward periphrases, and yes, his fart jokes suggest that all language, or all poetry, might be as artificial and arbitrary as his own: why not redo ‘Where are the snows of yesteryear?’
  • Homeric glosses, along with scholarly neologisms and obscure periphrases, are prominent in his poetry.
1.2 Grammar The use of separate words to express a grammatical relationship that is otherwise expressed by inflection, e.g. did go as opposed to went and more intelligent as opposed to cleverer.


Mid 16th century: via Latin from Greek, from periphrazein, from peri- 'around' + phrazein 'declare'.

Definition of periphrasis in:
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