From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

Related e

Wiki Commons

Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
figures of speech

Circumlocution (also called periphrasis, circumduction, circumvolution, periphrase, or ambage) is an ambiguous or roundabout figure of speech. In its most basic form, circumlocution is using many words (such as "a tool used for cutting things such as paper and hair") to describe something simple ("scissors"). In this sense, the vast majority of definitions found in dictionaries are circumlocutory.

Circumlocution is often used by aphasics and people learning a new language, where in the absence of a word (such as "abuelo" [grandfather]) the subject can simply be described ("el padre de su padre" [the father of one's father]). It is also used frequently in Basic English, a constructed dialect of non-regional English.

Circumlocution has numerous other uses, under whose circumstances other terms are used.



Amphilogism (also called amphilogy) is a form of circumlocutory speech used to avoid telling something that might otherwise harm you. For example, a man who for ulterior reasons does not want to divulge his relationship status might use amphilogistic language (i.e., the "pronoun game") to talk about his significant other without making concessions as to his relationship. For example, instead of saying "She made dinner for me last night", an amphilogistic statement would be "Dinner was already made for me last night".


Cledonism is the use of circumlocution to avoid saying unlucky words. For example, calling the devil "Old Nick", calling Macbeth the "Scottish Play" or saying "baker's dozen" instead of thirteen. The Roman god Orcus was referred to as "Pluto", "the rich one", in Latin.Template:Citation needed


Equivocation is the use of circumlocution to deceive others without blatantly lying. For example, if a mother asks her child to clean a throw rug, and the child replies that he will "hang the rug and beat it" instead of saying he will "clean it", he could mean that he will forget about the rug (hang it) and quickly leave (beat it).


Euphemism is the use of circumlocution to avoid saying offensive words. Euphemism, however, is only sometimes circumlocutory. For example, "Holy mother of Jesus!" is a circumlocution of "Mary!", but "heck", while still euphemistic, is not a circumlocution of "hell".

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Circumlocution" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools