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[sur-kuh m-loh-kyoo-shuh n] /ˌsɜr kəm loʊˈkyu ʃən/
a roundabout or indirect way of speaking; the use of more words than necessary to express an idea.
a roundabout expression.
Origin of circumlocution
late Middle English
1375-1425; late Middle English < Latin circumlocūtiōn- (stem of circumlocūtiō). See circum-, locution
Related forms
[sur-kuh m-lok-yuh-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee] /ˌsɜr kəmˈlɒk yəˌtɔr i, -ˌtoʊr i/ (Show IPA),
circumlocutional, circumlocutionary, adjective
uncircumlocutory, adjective
1. rambling, meandering, verbosity, prolixity. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for circumlocution
Historical Examples
  • Sometimes, angry spirits attacked the circumlocution Office.

    Little Dorrit Charles Dickens
  • The Barnacle family had for some time helped to administer the circumlocution Office.

    Little Dorrit Charles Dickens
  • He informed Chamberlain, with some circumlocution, that the Frenchman had been extremely anxious over the telegram.

    The Stolen Singer Martha Idell Fletcher Bellinger
  • There was not the slightest flavour of the circumlocution Office about their proceedings.

    The Uncommercial Traveller Charles Dickens
  • I am like the clerk in the circumlocution Office who always complained bitterly when any one came in to ask information.

  • He defined the nature and crime of treason with elaboration and circumlocution.

  • We run to the window whenever we feel inclined, and we leave our shades up at dusk without apology or circumlocution.

    The Jonathan Papers Elisabeth Woodbridge Morris
  • Dick of the Syke was not to be beaten for lack of the logic of circumlocution.

    A Son of Hagar Sir Hall Caine
  • The circumlocution and cold categories of Kant fail to improve the conditions of mortals, morally, spiritually, or physically.

    No and Yes Mary Baker Eddy
  • Indeed, it would be difficult to express the idea even by circumlocution.

    The Verbalist Thomas Embly Osmun, (AKA Alfred Ayres)
British Dictionary definitions for circumlocution


an indirect way of expressing something
an indirect expression
Derived Forms
circumlocutory (ˌsɜːkəmˈlɒkjʊtərɪ; -trɪ) adjective
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
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Word Origin and History for circumlocution

c.1400, from Latin circumlocutionem (nominative circumlocutio) "a speaking around" (the topic), from circum- "around" (see circum-) + locutionem (nominative locutio) "a speaking," noun of action from past participle stem of loqui "to speak" (see locution). A loan-translation of Greek periphrasis (see periphrasis).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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circumlocution in Culture
circumlocution [(sur-kuhm-loh-kyooh-shuhn)]

Roundabout speech or writing: “The driveway was not unlike that military training device known as an obstacle course” is a circumlocution for “The driveway resembled an obstacle course.” Circumlocution comes from Latin words meaning “speaking around.”

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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