Word of the Day : September 8, 2018


noun puh-RIFF-ruh-sis


1 : use of a longer phrasing in place of a possible shorter form of expression

2 : an instance of periphrasis

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.")


"There are countless passages of asinine periphrasis: 'The accelerant enzymes her image infuses in Bob create a chemical cocktail he can only counter with self-preservational condescension.' As these examples suggest, the book is only intermittently comprehensible." — James Marriott, The Times (London), 7 Apr. 2018

"Literary translation is challenging, and tends to work best when the translator has recourse to the amplifying and telescoping powers of periphrasis, poetic license, and, if it comes to it, a discreet footnote here or there. Few of these tools are at the disposal of the cinematic translator." — Elias Muhanna, The New Yorker, 30 May 2014

Test Your Vocabulary

Fill in the blanks to complete a noun that refers to the use of an unnecessarily large number of words to express an idea: _ i _ c _ _ l _ c _ _ i _ n.



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