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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Periphrasis \Pe*riph"ra*sis\, n.; pl. Periphrases. [L.] See Periphrase.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

1530s, from Latin periphrasis "circumlocution," from Greek periphrasis, from periphrazein "speak in a roundabout way," from peri- "round about" (see peri-) + phrazein "to express" (see phrase (n.)).


n. 1 The use of a longer expression instead of a shorter one with a similar meaning, for example "I am going to" instead of "I will". 2 (context linguistics English) Expressing a grammatical meaning (such as a tense) using a syntactic construction rather than morphological marking. 3 (context rhetoric English) The substitution of a descriptive word or phrase for a proper name (a species of circumlocution) 4 (context rhetoric English) The use of a proper name as a shorthand to stand for qualities associated with it.

  1. n. a style that involves indirect ways of expressing things [syn: circumlocution, ambage]

  2. [also: periphrases (pl)]


In linguistics, periphrasis is a device by which grammatical meaning is expressed by one or more free morphemes (typically one or more function words accompanying a content word), instead of by inflectional affixes or derivation. Periphrastic forms are analytic, whereas the absence of periphrasis is a characteristic of synthesis. While periphrasis concerns all categories of syntax, it is most visible with verb catenae. The verb catenae of English are highly periphrastic.

Usage examples of "periphrasis".

Below, it was stated, with the usual legal periphrases, that he left all he possessed to Margot Beste-Chetwynde.

Nor will language permit these words to be laid aside, since, if they were, there must be I know not what ridiculous periphrasis substituted in the room of them.

Also he tells us, in riddles and periphrasis, of a lost continent, of a vanished civilization, from which the wisdom of the Brotherhood is derived.

Ginge was proud of his literary style which was culled from the witness-box manner of thick-headed and very junior police constables whose periphrasis he had overheard from the dock.

He had a cunning mastery of periphrasis, and a telling command of adverbs.

Their damned circuits of form and periphrasis here ran worse than the Korean!

Tell me then, for you can, in what periphrasis of language, in what circumvolution of phrase, I shall envelope, yet not conceal this plain story.

Surely a memory which is exercised without any consciousness of recollecting is only a periphrasis for the absence of any memory at all.

Such a step would invoke the Imperative of Nexial Periphrasis, if I am transliterating correctly.

The periphrasis is rather a function of the moral vacuum in which the issue is raised, a condition that the novel postulates not as an exception but as the norm.

The sun, which Dubartas, that classic ancestor of periphrasis, had not yet styled "the grandduke of candles," shone forth brightly and cheerily.

It is worthy of remark, that the age of periphrases in verse was the age of crudities in prose.

All these things might be alleged against Lydgate, but then, they are the periphrases of a polite preacher, who talks of Adam, and would not like to mention anything painful to the pew-renters.