The term ‘periphrasis’ refers to the use of excessive language and surplus words to convey a meaning that could otherwise be conveyed with fewer words and in more direct a manner. The use of this literary device can be to embellish a sentence, to create a grander effect, to beat around the bush and to draw attention away from the crux of the message being conveyed.

Instead of simply saying “I am displeased with your behavior”, one can say, “the manner in which you have conducted yourself in my presence of late has caused me to feel uncomfortable and has resulted in my feeling disgruntled and disappointed with you”.

10 thoughts on “Periphrasis”

  1. Harold Bloom, literary critic , uses too many complex literary terms that make his essays exceedingly difficult to understand. Using your definition of ” periphrasis “, that applies to him.

    1. With periphrasis, you understand what they are saying still. with circumlocution, it’s normally described from an angle that gets hard to understand, often puzzling the reader.
      Phrase: you annoy me.
      Periphrasis: the way you speak, eat, walk, converse, or do anything causes me to be a mixture of irritated and slightly sick, and would wish you to stop.
      Circumlocution: your several actions that you perform that produce sound makes my brain fire signals that causes me to have feelings that make me dislike what you are doing and want to use my two legs to move away from you.

        1. No, circumlocution has an element of deception or being meant to distract; a red herring is close to circumlocution. Think of the Latin root — “talking around.” Lobbyists engage in both.

      1. I thought circumlocution is what language learners do when they don’t have the words to describe what they want and then go down a rabbit hole, never really reaching their destination?

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