periphrasis

play
noun pe·riph·ra·sis \ pə-ˈri-frə-səs \

Definition of periphrasis

plural periphrases play \pə-ˈri-frə-ˌsēz\
1 :use of a longer phrasing in place of a possible shorter form of expression
2 :an instance of periphrasis

periphrasis was our Word of the Day on 07/01/2009. Hear the podcast!

Examples of periphrasis in a Sentence

  1. congressional hearings into the Watergate scandal were marked by an orgy of periphrasis, the expression at this point in time being a memorable example

Did You Know?

It's easy enough to point out the origins of "periphrasis": the word was borrowed into English in the early 16th century via Latin from Greek periphrazein, which in turn comes from the prefix peri-, meaning "all around," and the verb "phrazein," "to point out." Two common descendants of "phrazein" in English are "phrase" and "paraphrase," the latter of which combines "phrazein" with the prefix para-, meaning "closely resembling." Another "phrazein" descendant is the less familiar word holophrasis, meaning "the expression of a complex of ideas in a single word or in a fixed phrase." (The prefix holo- can mean "completely.")

Origin and Etymology of periphrasis

Latin, from Greek, from periphrazein to express periphrastically, from peri- + phrazein to point out


Learn More about periphrasis


Seen and Heard

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!

WORD OF THE DAY

of yeast or being unsettled or frivolous

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Merriam-Webster's New Words Quiz—Fall 2017 Edition!

  • young-plant-shoots
  • Which of the following is a new sense of the word bunny?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!