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The Collaborative International Dictionary

euphuism \eu"phu*ism\ ([=u]"f[-u]*[i^]z'm), n. [Gr. e'yfyh`s well grown, graceful; e'y^ well + fyh` growth, fr. fy`ein to grow. This affected style of conversation and writing, fashionable for some time in the court of Elizabeth, had its origin from the fame of Lyly's books, ``Euphues, or the Anatomy of Wit,'' and ``Euphues and his England.''] (Rhet.) An affectation of excessive elegance and refinement of language; high-flown diction.


n. 1 (context uncountable English) An ornate style of writing (in Elizabethan England) marked by the excessive use of alliteration, antithesis and mythological similes. 2 An example of euphuism.

  1. n. any artificially elegant style of language

  2. an elegant style of prose of the Elizabethan period; characterized by balance and antithesis and alliteration and extended similes with and allusions to nature and mythology


Euphuism is a peculiar mannered style of English prose. It takes its name from a prose romance by John Lyly. It consists of a preciously ornate and sophisticated style, employing in deliberate excess a wide range of literary devices such as antitheses, alliterations, repetitions and rhetorical questions. Classical learning and remote knowledge of all kinds are displayed. Euphuism was fashionable in the 1580s, especially in the Elizabethan court, but never previously or subsequently.

Usage examples of "euphuism".

Euphuism asserts itself occasionally in the verse, and the affectation of scholarship, customary in that day, is responsible for a superabundance of classical allusions in unexpected places.

The essential requirement is to remember that Lyly the dramatist is the same man as Lyly the euphuist, and that his audience was always a company of courtiers, with Queen Elizabeth in their midst, infatuated with admiration for the new phraseology and mode of thought known as Euphuism.

But, then, the French could match the paste euphuisms of Lyly with the novels of Scudery.