Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
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 language Basic 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.
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