eu·​phu·​ism ˈyü-fyə-ˌwi-zəm How to pronounce euphuism (audio)
: an elegant Elizabethan literary style marked by excessive use of balance, antithesis, and alliteration and by frequent use of similes drawn from mythology and nature
: artificial elegance of language
ˈyü-fyə-wist How to pronounce euphuism (audio)
euphuistic adjective
euphuistically adverb

Did you know?

Nowadays, someone who uses euphuism might be accused of linguistic excess and affectation, but euphuism hasn't always had a negative connotation. When John Lyly employed this verbose form of rhetoric in his prose works Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit (1578) and Euphues and His England (1580), it was a style that appealed to many of his contemporaries. Euphuism comes from the name of the character Euphues, whom Lyly described as a "young gallante, of more wit than wealth, and yet of more wealth than wisdome." The name was probably inspired by a Greek word meaning "witty." The term euphuism came into being to refer to Lyly's (and other writers') style a dozen or so years after his works appeared.

Word History


Euphues, character in prose romances by John Lyly

First Known Use

1592, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of euphuism was in 1592


Dictionary Entries Near euphuism

Cite this Entry

“Euphuism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 May. 2024.

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