1 a : fatty, oily
b : smooth and greasy in texture or appearance
2 : insincerely smooth in speech and manner
Did You Know?
Nowadays, "unctuous" has a negative connotation, but it originated in 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 that are afflicted with an artificial gloss of sentimentality. An unctuous individual may mean well, but his or her insincere earnestness may leave an unwelcome residue with others, much like some ointments.
Angela's date was an unctuous man who attempted, unsuccessfully, to pass himself off as a sensitive, artistic soul.
"Cucumbers by themselves are too watery and mild, and avocados by themselves are a little rich and unctuous, but together they make a soup that's fresh and bright, yet rich enough to be satisfying." -- From an article by John Broening in The Denver Post, August 25, 2010
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Test Your Memory
What word, meaning "trite or overly sentimental," completes this sentence from a recent Word of the Day piece: "The author has presented us with another __________ coming-of-age love story"? The answer is ...
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