AskDefine | Define periphrasis

Dictionary Definition

periphrasis n : a style that involves indirect ways of expressing things [syn: circumlocution, ambage] [also: periphrases (pl)]

User Contributed Dictionary



  • (Canada) /pəˈrɪfrəsɪs/


  1. The use of a longer expression instead of a shorter one with a similar meaning, for example "I am going to" instead of "I will".
  2. Expressing a grammatical meaning (such as a tense) using a syntactic construction rather than morphological marking.

Related terms

Extensive Definition

In linguistics, periphrasis is a device by which a grammatical category or relationship is expressed by a free morpheme (typically one or more function words modifying a content word), instead of being shown by inflection or derivation. For example, the English future tense is periphrastic: it is formed with an auxiliary verb (shall or will) followed by the base form of the main verb. Another example is the comparative and superlative forms of adjectives, when they are formed with the words more and most rather than with the suffixes -er and -est: the forms more beautiful and most beautiful are periphrastic, while lovelier and loveliest are not.
Periphrasis is a characteristic of analytic languages, which tend to avoid inflection. Even synthetic languages, which are highly inflected, sometimes make use of periphrasis to fill out an inflectional paradigm that is missing certain forms.
A comparison of some Latin forms with their English translations shows that English uses periphrasis in many instances where Latin uses inflection:


See also

periphrasis in Aragonese: Perifrasis berbal
periphrasis in Catalan: Perífrasi verbal
periphrasis in Spanish: Perífrasis verbal
periphrasis in French: Temps périphrastique
periphrasis in Galician: Perífrase verbal
periphrasis in Hungarian: Körülírás
periphrasis in Macedonian: Перифраза
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