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  • Noun




I admire people who can state their ideas precisely without resorting to circumlocution or long-winded wordiness. Richard Feynman, the Nobel prize winning physicist, is well known for his simple explanations of physics, which do not resort to lengthy circumlocution. “Don’t say reflected acoustic wave,” Feynman would say. “Say echo.” I find that people most often use wordy circumlocution and roundabout ways of conversing if they have nothing important to say.

Quiz: What is circumlocution?

  • The act of speaking or writing that is too wordy and thus can be unclear.
  • The act of speaking or writing that clearly explains a difficult subject.
  • The act of writing or speaking in a complex way that reflects higher learning.

Memory Hook

Circle Location Leads to Circumlocution "Because I did not want to hurt the realtor's feelings when he showed me a city house, I began a lengthy circumlocution to explain why the house's location near the city circle would be too, um, interesting, and it might make me want to go into, um, city planning, and then I might have to build a new city circle somewhere and, um, move, yes, that's right ... to a new location!"


  • When the local newspapers had to discuss something controversial involving the Syrians, they would often refer to them with circumlocution, 'a regional power,' say, for fear that the men from the Beau Rivage would come and get them. —The Washington Post
  • Nobel laureate economist Robert M. So low of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says Greenspan is not the first Fed chairman to employ circumlocution. —The Washington Post
  • Performance reviews have become part of the corporate culture. So has circumlocution. Managers are forever pulling punches, thanks to political correctness, legal jeopardy and, perhaps, the general niceness that afflicts our times. —The Economist
  • There is no need for circumlocution; the game and the quest are one. —Sports Illustrated

Word Ingredients

circum- around, about
locut having spoken
-ion act, state, or result of doing something

Circumlocution is the “act of speaking around” something instead of going straight to the point, usually for the purpose of evasion or avoidance of something.

Word Theater

Are You Being Served? Sir Humphrey using some pretty serious political circumlocution!

Word Constellation