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See also: périphrase



From Latin periphrasis from Ancient Greek περίφρασις (períphrasis), from περιφράζομαι (periphrázomai, I consider all sides of an issue), from περί (perí, around) + φράζω (phrázō, I show, point out). See phrase.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈpɛɹiː.fɹeɪz/
  • Homophones: paraphrase (if the second vowel is pronounced as a schwa, as it sometimes is)


periphrase (countable and uncountable, plural periphrases)

  1. (rhetoric) The use of more words than are necessary to express the idea; a roundabout, or indirect, way of speaking; circumlocution.
    • 1821, Thomas De Quincey, John Paul Frederick Richter (published in London Magazine
      To describe all those on whom the fates of Troy hinged , by enigmatic periphrases
    • 1863, George Eliot, Romola, Volume III, Book III, Chapter VI, page 56
      He held up the condition of the Church in the terrible mirror of his unflinching speech, which called things by their right names and dealt in no polite periphrases []


Derived terms[edit]



periphrase (third-person singular simple present periphrases, present participle periphrasing, simple past and past participle periphrased)

  1. (transitive) To express by periphrase or circumlocution.
  2. (intransitive) To use circumlocution.


Part or all of this entry has been imported from the 1913 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, which is now free of copyright and hence in the public domain. The imported definitions may be significantly out of date, and any more recent senses may be completely missing.
(See the entry for periphrase in
Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913.)