unctuous

adjective
unc·​tu·​ous | \ ˈəŋ(k)-chə-wəs How to pronounce unctuous (audio) , -chəs, -shwəs\

Definition of unctuous

1 : having, revealing, or marked by a smug, ingratiating, and false earnestness or spirituality
2a : fatty, oily
b : smooth and greasy in texture or appearance
3 : plastic fine unctuous clay

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Other Words from unctuous

unctuously adverb
unctuousness noun

Is unctuous positive or negative?

Nowadays, unctuous usually has a negative connotation, but it originated as 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 marked by an artificial gloss of sentimentality. An unctuous individual may mean well, but his or her insincere earnestness can leave an unwelcome residue with others, much like some ointments.

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

Recent Examples on the Web

From the fragrant, garlicky sting of mammoth prawns splashed with mole verde to the rustic elegance of an unctuous cut of roasted Iberico de bellota pork. Dominic Armato, azcentral, "The best restaurants in Scottsdale and Paradise Valley," 1 July 2019 Jim Nantz, the longtime host of the CBS broadcast and of the Butler Cabin sacrament, has perfected an air of unctuous self-satisfaction that signals even to the casual viewer that there is something batty about the whole enterprise. Nick Paumgarten, The New Yorker, "Inside the Cultish Dreamworld of Augusta National," 14 June 2019 The best for fish are those unctuous, yellow-green oils from places such as Provence, France, or Liguria, Italy. Bill St. John, The Denver Post, "The art of finishing sauces for fish," 5 June 2019 This is a novel where every sentence has been wrapped in layer upon layer of velvet, in which every word is unctuous, in which every image is just on the verge of feeling overripe. Constance Grady, Vox, "Melmoth, from the author of The Essex Serpent, is a lurid novel of sin and redemption," 22 Oct. 2018 The widely cut fish, almost circular in shape, increases the surface area so that each bite is just a little more unctuous and satisfying than competitors' cuts. Krista Simmons, Condé Nast Traveler, "15 Best Sushi Restaurants in Los Angeles," 27 Feb. 2018 No one who orders a Kobe slider wants the unctuous, fatty experience of ordering a Kobe steak. Jonah Flicker, Town & Country, "Anthony Bourdain Says Donald Trump's Well-Done Steak Order "Hurts Me"," 20 Apr. 2017 The tactlessness seemed all the more notable given how unctuous Mr Moon has been in his praise of Mr Trump, despite the misgivings of many South Koreans. The Economist, "Donald Trump is undermining the coalition he built against North Korea," 25 May 2018 And speaking of Macron—all that unctuous Gallic buttering-up didn’t convince Trump to honor the Iran nuclear deal. Lynn Yaeger, Vogue, "In Washington, The Bullies Are Out In Full Force," 13 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'unctuous.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of unctuous

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2a

History and Etymology for 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

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Dictionary Entries near unctuous

unctionless

unctious

unctuosity

unctuous

uncuff

uncuffed

unculled

Statistics for unctuous

Last Updated

17 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for unctuous

The first known use of unctuous was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for unctuous

unctuous

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of unctuous

formal + disapproving 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

unctuous

adjective
unc·​tu·​ous | \ ˈəŋ(k)-chə(-wə)s, ˈəŋ(k)sh-wəs How to pronounce unctuous (audio) \

Medical Definition of unctuous

: rich in oil or fat : fatty an unctuous pharmaceutical preparation

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