Unctuous is a word you don’t hear every day but I bet you know the type of person it describes. Straight to it then, here is what Merriam-Webster has to say:
adjective unc·tu·ous \ˈəŋ(k)-chə-wəs, -chəs, -shwəs\
Popularity: Top 10% of words
Simple Definition of unctuous
—used to describe someone who speaks and behaves in a way that is meant to seem friendly and polite but that is unpleasant because it is obviously not sincere
Perhaps the word describes some politicians we all know?
a : fatty, oily
b : smooth and greasy in texture or appearance
: plastic <fine unctuous clay>
: full of unction; especially : revealing or marked by a smug, ingratiating, and false earnestness or spirituality
Now, who does that remind you of?
Examples in a sentence
<an unctuous effort to appear religious to the voters>
<an unctuous appraisal of the musical talent shown by the boss’s daughter>
Did You Know?
Nowadays, “unctuous” has a negative connotation, but it originated in a term describing a positive act, that of healing. The word comes from the Latin verb unguere (“to anoint”), a root that also gave rise to the words “unguent” (“a soothing or healing salve”) and “ointment.” The oily nature of ointments may have led to the application of “unctuous” to describe things that are afflicted with an artificial gloss of sentimentality. An unctuous individual may mean well, but his or her insincere earnestness may leave an unwelcome residue with others, much like some ointments.
Well, actually no, I didn’t 🙂
Origin and Etymology of unctuous
Middle English, from Middle French or Medieval Latin; Middle French unctueus, from Medieval Latin unctuosus, from Latin unctus act of anointing, from unguere to anoint
First Known Use: 14th century
Fascinating stuff, eh? See you next week!
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“Unctuous” makes me think of an evangelical preacher grandstanding… Or Donald Trump. That word fits both cases.
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