Figure Name periphrasis
Source Ad Herennium 4.32.43 ("circumitio"); Quintilian 8.6.29-30 ("antonomasia"); Bede 614; Sherry (1550) 44 ("periphrasis," "circuitio"); Peacham (1577) H1v, K3r; Putt. (1589) 203 ("periphrasis," "the figure of ambage"); Day 1599 84 ; Silva Rhetoricae (; JG Smith (1665) ("antonomasia"); Ad Herennium ("antonomasia") (335); Garrett Epp (1994) ("pronominatio," "antonomasia," "circumitio," "periphrasis"); JG Smith (1665) ("periphrasis"); Gibbons (1767) 71 "antonomasia"; Vinsauf ([c. 1215] 1967) ("periphrasis (circuitio, circumlocutio)"); Vinsauf ([c. 1215] 1967) ("antonomasia (pronominatio)"); Holmes (1806) ("antonomasia"); Gibbons (1767) 224 ("periphrasis"); Macbeth (1876) ("antonomasia," "periphrasis," "circumlocution," "definition"); Holmes (1806) ("periphrasis"); De Mille (1882); Du Marsais (1730)("l'antonomase"); Blount (1653) 42; Bullinger (1898) ("periphrasis; or, circumlocution"); Norwood (1742) ("periphrasis"); Vickers (1989) ("periphrasis")
Earliest Source None
Synonyms perifrasis, antonomasia, circumlocutio, circumitio, the figure of ambage, pronominatio, circuitio, circumlocution, definition
Etymology from Gk. peri, "around" or "about" and phrazein "to declare" or "to speak"
Type Trope
Linguistic Domain Lexicographic

1. The substitution of a descriptive word or phrase for a proper name (a species of circumlocution); or, conversely, the use of a proper name as a shorthand to stand for qualities associated with it. (Silva Rhetoricae)

2. Antonomasia: a putting of one name for another: a figure when another name, a common name, or a nick name is put instead of the proper name.; Antonomasia, nominis unius pro alio positio, A putting of one name for another, or the exchanging or a name; derived from pro, for, and [onomazo] nomino, to name: Antonomasia is a form of speech, whereby the oratour or speaker, for a proper name putteth another, and some name of dignity, office, profession, science, or trade. It is a kinde of a Metonymie and Synecdoche Generis, and is when another name, a nickname or common name is put instead of the proper name, or when a word being put without a name, supplies the place of the name. (JG Smith)

3. Antonomasia or Pronomination designates by a
kind of adventitious epithet a thing that cannot be called by its proper name (Ad Herennium)

3. Periphrasis is a manner of speech used to express a simple idea by means of a circumlocution (Ad Herennium)

4. Designating a person or thing by means of an epithet in place of the proper name. (Garrett Epp)

4. Expressing a simple idea by means of a circumlocution. (Garrett Epp)

5. Periphrasis, Circumlocution, or speaking of one word by many; a figure when we shadow out a thing by some equivalent expressions, &c.; PERIPHRASIS, Circumlocutio, a long circumstance, or a speaking of many words, when few may suffice; derived from [periphrazo] circumloquor, to utter that in many words which might be spoken in few. (Note in marg: Whatsoever may be more briefly signified, & is with eloquence more amply manifested,...) It is the using of many words for one thing. Periphasis is a figure when a short ordinary sense is odly exprest by more words; or when a thing is shadowed out by some equivalent expressions. This figure is made principally four wayes, viz.

(1) When some notable enterprise, ones native countrey, or a sect, or strange opinion is put in stead of the proper name, &c.
(2) When by the Etymologie, to wit, when the cause or reason of a name is unfolded.
(3) When by Annotation, that is, by certain marks or tokens something is described.
(4) When by Definition a thing is described (JG Smith)

6. "...a Trope by which we put a proper name for a common name, or a common name for a proper." (?)

7. Since a word, a short sound, passes swiftly through the ears, a step onward is taken when an expression made up of a long and leisurely sequence of sounds is substituted for the a word. In order to amplify the poem, avoid calling things by their names; use other designations for them. Do not unveil the things fully but suggest it by hints. Do not let your words move straight onward through the subject, but, circling it, take a long and winding path around what you were going to say briefly. Retard the tempo by thus increasing the number of words. This device lengthens brief forms of expression, since a short word abdicates in order that an extended sequence may be its heir. Since a concept is confined in one of three strongholds - in a noun, or a verb, or a combination of both - do not let the noun or verb or combination of both render the concept explicit, but let an amplified form stand in place of verb or noun or both. (Vinsauf)

7. antonomasia (pronominatio): If the noun is proper, it is transposed either with a view to praising or censuring by the name alone (you may praise with such names as this: He is a Paris, or you may censure in a similar way: He is a Thersites), or with a view to suggesting some analogy, as for instance in an expression of this kind: That captain rules the ship and is our Tiphys, or: That country fellow rules the chariot, our guide and our Automedon. (Vinsauf)

8. Periphrasis, is a forme of speech wherby that which might be said with one word, or at the least with verie few, is declared and expounded with many, and that sundrie waies.
First by explication of the name which the Grecians do call Etimologia: As when for this word Philosopher, we say a man studious of wisedome, for Parasite a flatter for gaines sake: for Christian a worshipper of Christ.

Secondly by Annotation: that is, when by certaine markes or tokens we describe any thing, as understanding what anger is, we say it is a vehement heat of the mind, which bringeth palenesse to the countenance, burning to the eyes, & trembling to the parts of the bodie.

Thirdly by definition: For man, a living creature endued with reason, for a tyrant, an oppresor of the lawes and liberties of the common wealth. (Peacham)

9. Antonomasia proper names imparts, From kindred, country, epithets, or arts. (Holmes)

10. "a Figure in which we use more words than what are absolutely necessary, and sometimes less plain words, either to avoid some inconvenience and ill effect which might proceed from expressing ourselves in fewer or clearer words, or in order to give a variety and elegance to our discourses, and multiple the graces of our composition." (Gibbons)

11 a) Periphrasis, or Circumlocution, than which few figures are more common or more important, is the naming of a person or thing, not directly, but in a roundabout way. (Macbeth)

11 b) Antonomasia is our next: the using a proper name for a common name, as when an orator is called a Demosthenes; a traitor an Arnold; a calm, disinterested patriot a Washington. (Macbeth)

12. Periphrasis of words doth use a train, Intending one thing only to explain. (Holmes)

Periphrasis is also known as circumlocution; but the term periphrasis generally refers to those cases where the figure is used with effect, while "circumlocution" refers to its faulty use.
Periphrasis may be defined as naming a thing indirectly by means of some well-known attribute, or characteristic, or attendant circumstance. (De Mille)

14. L'antonomase est une espèce de synecdoque,
par laquelle on met un nom comun pour un nom propre, ou bien un nom propre pour un nom
comun. Dans le premier cas, on veut faire entendre que la persone ou la chose
dont on parle excèle sur toutes celles qui peuvent etre comprises sous le nom comun : et
dans le second cas, on fait entendre que celui
dont on parle ressemble à ceux dont le nom
propre est célcbre par quelque vice ou par
quelque vertu.

Antonomasia is a species of synecdoche by which we put a common name for a proper name or even a proper name for a common name. In the first case, we want to express that the person or thing about which we are speaking excels over all the others which could be comprised under a common name: and in the second case, we express that he about whom we are speaking resembles those for whom the name is famous and by which vice or virtue. (Du Marsais [trans. Abbott])

15. "Though all the words of it by themselves are most known and familiar; yet the ordering and fetch of it is strange and admirable to the ignorant; We therefore call it Periphrasis or Circumlocution" (Blount)

16. When a Description is used instead of the Name... The figure is so called because more words than are necessary are used to describe anything: as when a thing is spoken of by a description of it, instead of simply using its name: and this for the sake of calling attention to it; and in order to emphasize and increase the effect. Or, when a person or thing is spoken of by some attribute, instead of by its proper simple name: as when, instead of saying Luther, we say "the monk that shook the world," or "the miner's son." (Bullinger, 445)

17. PERIPHRASIS. Periphrasis, circumlocutio. This Figure describes a thing in more words than are necessary, for the sake of illustration, or to avoid some ideas not so pleasing to the mind. (Norwood, 111)

18. Periphrasis (or circumlocutio), the use of a number of words to describe at greater length and with fuller emphasis something which could be stated much more briefly. (Vickers 497)


1. In the TV show "Dinosaurs" the infant dino called his father, "Not-the-Mama." (Silva Rhetoricae)
1. He's no Fabio to look at; but then, he's no Woody Allen, either. (Silva Rhetoricae)

1. Said of Aristotle: "The prince of Peripatetics" —Angel Day (Silva Rhetoricae)

3. " Surely the grandsons of Africanus did not behave like this I " (Ad Herennium)

3. " See now, men of the jury, how your Sir Swashbuckler there has treated me." (Ad Herennium)

3. " The foresight of Scipio crushed the power of Carthage." (Ad Herennium)

4. You come with letters against the King, and take Vanity the puppet's part against the royalty of her father. (Lear 2.2 qtd. in Garrett Epp)

4. Madam, an hour before the worshipped sun
Peered forth the golden window of the east .... (R&J 1.1 qtd. in Garrett Epp)

2. The Author by the name of his profession or science, as when we say, the Philosopher for Aristotle: The Roman Orator for Cicero: The Psalmograph for David. (JG Smith)

6. "Thus, that man is a Hercules, that is, an uncommonly strong man. Or he is a Job, that is a remarkably patient man. Or he is a Nero, that is, a monstrously cruel man. Or he is a Croesus, that is, an immensely rich man."

5. So in stead of Mopsa wept ill-favouredly, Mopsa disgraced weeping with her countenance. (JG Smith)

9. There goes Irue, i.e. a poor Man. Eacides, i.e. Achilles, conquered. The Carthaginian, i.e. Hannibal, won the Field. Cytherea, i.e. Venus, worshipped in the island so called. The Philosopher, i.e. Aristotle, asserted so. The Poet, i.e. Virgil, sings Eneas. (Holmes)

10. "Cicero, by making use of a circumlocution, mentions nothing of the killing Clodius, though that event seems to be in his view: 'The servants of milo, says he, for I do not speak with a design to throw off the crime from them to others, but according as the event really happened, did that without the order, knowledge, or presence of their master, which every one would be willing his own servancts should do in the like circumstances.'" (Gibbons)

10. "Virgil, instead of saying it is near sun-set, thus describes that season of the day, 'See from the villas tops the smoke ascend, / And broader shadows from the hills extend!'" (Gibbons)

11 a) In "Hiawatha," Longfellow gives us the Indian name for September-
"The moon of the falling leaves." (Macbeth)

11 b) A renowned example of this occurs when Shylock, the case being at first decided in his favor in Shakespeare's drama, cries delighted:
"A Daniel come to judgment; yea, a Daniel." (Macbeth)

12. The writer of the trojan war, for Homer. (Holmes)

13. "It is the hour when from the boughs
The nightingale's high note is heard." -BYRON (De Mille)

14. Philosophe, orateur, poète, roi, vile,
monsieur , sont des noms comuns ; cependant
l'antonomase en fait des noms particuliers
qui équivalent à des noms propres.
Quand les anciens disent le philosophe , ils
entendent Aristote.
Quand les latins disent l'orateur, ils entendent Cicéron.
Quand ils disent le poète, ils entendent Virgile.

Philosopher, orator, poet, king, city, sir, are all common names; meanwhile, antonomasia can make particular names equivalent to proper names. When the ancients say philosopher, they hear Aristotle. When the Latins say orator, they hear Cicero. When they say poet, they hear Virgil. (Du Marsais [trans. Abbott])

15. "Instead of saying they that guarded Amphialus, were killed themselves; its said, seeking to save him, they lost the fortresses, which nature had planted them in" (Blount)

16. Gen. 20:16. -Abimelech said unto Sarah concerning Abraham, "Behold, I have given thy brother a thousand pieces of silver; behold, he is to thee a covering of the eyes unto all that are with thee, and with all other: thus she was reproved." (Bullinger, 455)

17. Job. 18. 14. Death is called the king of terrors. (Norwood, 111)

17. John 21. 20. The disciple whom Jesus loved: which modest circumlocution St. John often useth, to signify himself, who was the beloved disciple of his dear Saviour. (Norwood, 111)

18. . . . when that fell arrest
Without all bail shall carry me away . . .
--Shakespeare, "Sonnet 74" (Vickers 497)

Kind Of Similarity
Part Of Synecdoche
Related Figures figures of substitution, figures of amplification, antonomasia, circumlocutio, synecdoche, analogy
Notes 'Type of' substitution but since this is not an option, similarity seems to be the best fit. added "circumlocution" from Gibbons--too close to circumlocutio? --MC
Confidence Unconfident
Last Editor Daniel Etigson
Confidence Unconfident
Editorial Notes requires new "substitution" field? -ark I have encountered a few other figures which may benefit from a "substitution" field. please cite definitions and quotes source. Is 6 Gibbons? -ark Changed "Part of" to synecdoche from circumlocution. - [nike]
Reviewed No