Periphrasis is a figure of speech where the meaning of a word or phrase is expressed by many or several words. Also known as circumlocution. (Periphrasis is of Greek origin, while circumlocution is Latin – both meaning "phrasing around", as in "avoiding the straightforward way of saying it".)
In linguistics, periphrasis is a device by which a grammatical concept is expressed by a phrase or standard idiom, instead of being shown by inflection, derivation or the use of non-content words. The pattern of the phrase is called a periphrastic construction. For example, the English future tense is periphrastic: it is shown by a verb turned into an auxiliary (will) followed by the base form of the main verb. The so-called compound tenses and all the modal expressions in English, as well as the passive voice, are periphrastic too.
In a general sense, circumlocution and periphrasis mean describing a word with other words, for example: "scissors" = "a thing you use to cut other things". Circumlocution is often helpful while learning a new language, when one does not have the word for a particular thing. In the constructed languageBasic English this is used to decrease the size of the necessary vocabulary.
Circumlocution also means replacing a word with another (or others), often in order to sound more polite or to avoid a rude term. In this context, see also euphemism.
Whatever was required to be done, the Circumlocution Office was beforehand with all the public departments in the art of perceivingHOW NOT TO DO IT.
Through this delicate perception, through the tact with which it invariably seized it, and through the genius with which it always acted on it, the Circumlocution Office had risen to overtop all the public departments; and the public condition had risen to bewhat it was.
Because the Circumlocution Office was down upon any ill-advised public servant who was going to do it, or who appeared to be by any surprising accident in remote danger of doing it, with a minute, and a memorandum, and a letter of instructions that extinguished him.
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