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

Keep scrolling for more

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

And, just like the fabled fish, I was conned into eating these unctuous dumplings all my life. May Klisch, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Sticky rice, an Asian favorite with sweet and savory uses, makes a mean dessert with mango," 23 Aug. 2019 But that uber unctuous pork inside is more than worth the burn. Jenn Harrisstaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, "The best dumplings in Los Angeles, an official guide," 29 July 2019 The nova there is unctuous, The sturgeon’s like a dream. New York Times, "‘All Was Going Well When I Noticed a Rustling Under Some Shrubbery’," 17 June 2019 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

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about unctuous

Listen to Our Podcast about unctuous

Dictionary Entries near unctuous

unctionless

unctious

unctuosity

unctuous

uncuff

uncuffed

unculled

Statistics for unctuous

Last Updated

28 Aug 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for unctuous

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on unctuous

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

WORD OF THE DAY

formidable, illustrious, or eminent

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

The Exceptions Quiz III

  • one green toy robot amidst many red toy robots
  • Which of these words does not mean "nonsense"?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Dictionary Devil

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!