Simple Definition of unctuous
—used to describe someone who speaks and behaves in a way that is meant to seem friendly and polite but that is unpleasant because it is obviously not sincere
Examples of unctuous in a sentence
<an unctuous effort to appear religious to the voters>
<an unctuous appraisal of the musical talent shown by the boss's daughter>
Did You Know?
Nowadays, "unctuous" has a negative connotation, but it originated in a term describing a positive act, that of healing. The word comes from the Latin verb unguere ("to anoint"), a root that also gave rise to the words "unguent" ("a soothing or healing salve") and "ointment." The oily nature of ointments may have led to the application of "unctuous" to describe things that are afflicted with an artificial gloss of sentimentality. An unctuous individual may mean well, but his or her insincere earnestness may leave an unwelcome residue with others, much like some ointments.
Origin of unctuous
Middle English, from Middle French or Medieval Latin; Middle French unctueus, from Medieval Latin unctuosus, from Latin unctus act of anointing, from unguere to anoint
First Known Use: 14th century
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