A Word A Day : Unctuous

Sunday, 6th January 2008 : Today's Word is ...


( Adjective )

Pronunciation : úngk-choo-ess

1. characterized by excessive piousness or moralistic fervor, esp. in an affected manner

2. excessively smooth, suave, or smug

3. of the nature of or characteristic of an unguent or ointment

4. containing or composed of oil or fat

5. abundant in organic materials; soft and rich


Middle English, from Old French unctueus, from Medieval Latin ūnctuōsus, from Latin ūnctum, ointment, from neuter past participle of unguere, to anoint


ingratiating, sycophantic, obsequious, groveling, smug, phony, slimy, smarmy, creepy, oily, oily, greasy, fatty, slippery, slimy, well-coated


arrogant, blase, dull, unfriendly, ungracious, aboveboard, honest, open, principled, straightforward, trustworthy, truthful

Contextual Examples:

• The unctuous, complacent court composer who is consumed with envy and self-loathing, became our only help to come out of the court case.

• Salad oil is literally unctuous.

• A used-car salesman might be figuratively unctuous that he is oily in the sense of being slick, sleazy and insincere.

Related Words:

unctuously: Adverb

unctuosity: Noun

unctuousness: Noun

unction: Noun

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