Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary


noun cir·cum·lo·cu·tion \ˌsər-kəm-lō-ˈkyü-shən\

Simple Definition of circumlocution

  • : the use of many words to say something that could be said more clearly and directly by using fewer words

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of circumlocution

  1. 1 :  the use of an unnecessarily large number of words to express an idea

  2. 2 :  evasion in speech


play \-ˈlä-kyə-ˌtȯr-ē\ adjective

Examples of circumlocution in a sentence

  1. He was criticized for his use of circumlocution.

  2. I'm trying to avoid circumlocutions in my writing.

Did You Know?

In The King's English, grammarian H.W. Fowler advised, "Prefer the single word to the circumlocution." Alas, that good advice was not followed by the framers of "circumlocution." They actually used two terms in forming that word for unnecessarily verbose prose or speech. But their choices were apt; circumlocution derives from the Latin circum-, meaning "around," and locutio, meaning "speech - so it literally means "roundabout speech." Since the 15th century, English writers have used "circumlocution" with disdain, naming a thing to stop, or better yet, to avoid altogether. Charles Dickens even used it to satirize political runarounds when he created the fictional Circumlocution Office, a government department that delayed the dissemination of information and just about everything else.

Origin and Etymology of circumlocution

Middle English circumlocucyon, from Latin circumlocution-, circumlocutio, from circum- + locutio speech, from loqui to speak

First Known Use: 15th century

Other Grammar and Linguistics Terms

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up circumlocution? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).