Circumlocution

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This article is part of the Figures of Speech course. You may choose to follow it in a structured way, or read each item separately.

Circumlocution (also known as periphrasis) is a figure of speech which is not used much deliberately these days, although it was much admired in the past. It is the practice of decorating one's language by talking round the subject - using long phrases to replace single words. Nowadays, we like to call a spade a spade; once, it is alleged, there were those who preferred to call it "a manual agricultural implement".

Periphrasis is usually seen as a weakness of style these days. There is a word which always carries this pejorative sense: tautology. It has a simpler English equivalent... long-windedness.