Euphuism is an artificial literary style, popular in the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods. It derived its name from the name of the hero of two prose romances by John Lyly (1554-1606), Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit (1579) and his Euphues and His England (1580). There is little plot in either romance; the interest lies chiefly in long philosophic discussions and in the elaborate and affected style that gave rise to the term euphuism. This ornate prose style is characterized by alliteration, lengthy similes, extended comparisons, complicated figures, unduly and neat antitheses, and skillfully balanced sentences. The intent of this elaborate elegance was to woo feminine readers by seeming to edify them, while avoiding scholarly solemnity. The abundant use of literary devices, which produced an overall effect of overrefined artificiality, helped free English prose from the heavy latinized style and added fancy and imagination to prose writing. The titles of Lyly's books were appropriately named, for Euphues comes from a Greek word meaning "good nature." Although criticized by some contemporary writers, and ridiculed by Shakespeare, this bombastic style created a fashion that lasted for half a century. It was frequently imitated by contemporaries, including Queen Elizabeth I, Robert Greene, and Thomas Lodge.
   The inflated style of John Lyly was a sister style to that of the Spanish poet Luis de Gongora y Argote (1561-1627), one of the great Spanish lyricists. Though Gongora used his florid, cluttered literary style to good advantage, the clumsy attempts by lesser poets to imitate it have given English the word Gongorism, words so presented as to create an unreal world.
   Gongora was a priest as well as a poet and dramatist. None of his poems were published while he was alive. His name became a synonym for a style purposely obscure and meaningless, ornate and intricate.

Dictionary of eponyms. . 2013.


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  • Euphuism — is a mannered style of English prose, taking its name from works by John Lyly who, however, did not invent the term. It took the form of a preciously ornate and sophisticated style that employed a wide range of literary devices such as antitheses …   Wikipedia

  • euphuism — eu phu*ism ([=u] f[ u]*[i^]z m), n. [Gr. e yfyh s well grown, graceful; e y^ well + fyh growth, fr. fy ein to grow. This affected style of conversation and writing, fashionable for some time in the court of Elizabeth, had its origin from the fame …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • euphuism — index fustian, rhetoric (insincere language) Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • euphuism — (not to be confused with euphemism: see the preceding entry) is an affected or high flown style of writing or speaking, originally applied to work of the late 16c and early 17c written in imitation of John Lyly s Euphues (pronounced yoo fyoo eez… …   Modern English usage

  • euphuism — [yo͞o′fyo͞o iz΄əm] n. [< Euphues, fictitious character in two prose romances by John Lyly < Gr euphyēs, shapely, graceful < eu (see EU ) + phyē, growth < phyein, to grow (see BONDAGE) + ISM] 1. the artificial, affected, high flown… …   English World dictionary

  • euphuism — euphuist, n. euphuistic, euphuistical, adj. euphuistically, adv. /yooh fyooh iz euhm/, n. 1. an affected style in imitation of that of Lyly, fashionable in England about the end of the 16th century, characterized chiefly by long series of… …   Universalium

  • euphuism — noun a) An ornate style of writing (in Elizabethan England) marked by the excessive use of alliteration, antithesis and mythological similes. b) An example of euphuism. See Also: euphui …   Wiktionary

  • euphuism — noun Etymology: Euphues, character in prose romances by John Lyly Date: 1592 1. an elegant Elizabethan literary style marked by excessive use of balance, antithesis, and alliteration and by frequent use of similes drawn from mythology and nature… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • euphuism — Synonyms and related words: Gongorism, affectation, affectedness, artfulness, artifice, artificiality, asiaticism, device, elegance, euphemism, exquisiteness, figurative language, figurativeness, figure, figure of speech, floridity, flourish,… …   Moby Thesaurus

  • EUPHUISM —    an affected bombastic style of language, so called from Euphues, a work of Sir John Lyly s written in that style …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

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