Periphrasis or Circumlocution definition and examples


Periphrasis or Circumlocution is a figure of speech that expresses a thing, fact, or idea in a roundabout way for the sake of beauty. The figure, that deals with such round-about expressions, is called Periphrasis or Circumlocution, meaning a roundabout expression.


(1) Sleep the sleep that knows not breaking.  – Walter Scott
This is a periphrasis. Here, ‘Death’ is here expressed in a round-about way by ‘sleep that knows not breaking.

(ii) That orbed maiden with white fire laden.   – P.B.Shelley
This is also an instance of periphrasis. In the present instance, ‘moon’ is expressed in a round-about way by  the expression ‘that orbed…. laden.’

(iii) Horsed upon the sightless couriers of the air.
Here the expression ‘couriers of the air’ means the ‘wind’.

(iv) Yesterday I saw a million-colored bow.

This is an example of Periphrasis. Instead of staying ‘rainbow’, I use a roundabout expression of it that is ‘million-colored bow’.

(v) Then felt I like some watcher of the skies.   – John Keats
Here ‘Astronomer’ is meant by the round-about expression, ‘watcher of the skies’.

(v) Wandering near her secret bower.   Thomas Gray
In this example, ‘nest’ is expressed by the round-about expression ‘secret bower’.

(vi) The eye of heaven shines too hot today.

Here, the thing ‘sun’ is meant by the roundabout expression ‘eye of heaven’. So this is also an example of Periphrasis or Circumlocution.

Also read; What is Parody: Definition, characteristics and examples

Also read; Chiasmus: Definition, Features and Examples of Chiasmus