Circumlocution (also called circumduction, circumvolution, periphrasis,[1] or ambage[2]) is locution that circles around a specific idea with multiple words rather than directly evoking it with fewer and apter words. It is sometimes a necessary tool of communication (for example, in getting around lexical gaps to overcomeuntranslatability), but it is also often a flaw in communication (for example, when it is a figure of speech that is unnecessarily ambiguous and obscure).[3] Ambiguity means that information can have multiple meanings.[4]Roundabout speech refers to using many words (such as “a tool used for cutting things such as paper and hair“) to describe something for which a concise (and commonly known) expression exists (“scissors“).[5] The vast majority of definitions found in dictionaries are circumlocutory. Circumlocution is often used by aphasics and people learning a new language, where in the absence of a word (such as “abuelo” [grandfather]) the subject can simply be described (“el padre de su padre” [the father of one’s father]). Euphemism, innuendo, and equivocationare different types of ambiguous and roundabout language (i.e. circumlocution

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  1. Jump up^ “Speak of the devil, and he will appear” is the proverb.


  1. Jump up^ “periphrasis – definition and examples of periphrasis (rhetoric)”. 1953-08-10. Retrieved2013-05-20.
  2. Jump up^ “Ambage” in American Heritage, and
  3. Jump up^ Gail Ramshaw (1 January 1996). Liturgical Language: Keeping it Metaphoric, Making it Inclusive. Liturgical Press. p. 36. ISBN 978-0-8146-2408-1. Retrieved 29 September 2013.
  4. Jump up^ “ambiguity – definition of ambiguity by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia”. Retrieved 2013-05-23.
  5. Jump up^ Máire Byrne (8 September 2011). The Names of God in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam: A Basis for Interfaith Dialogue. Continuum. p. 48. ISBN 978-1-4411-5356-2. Retrieved 29 September 2013.
  6. Jump up^ “innuendo – definition of innuendo by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia”. Retrieved 2013-05-25.
  7. Jump up^ New Oxford American Dictionary 2nd edition © 2005 by Oxford University Press, Inc.

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