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The Complete Vocabulary Builder Workbook



How to pronounce unctuous (audio)

Dictionary definition of unctuous

Excessively flattering, insincere, or smug in an attempt to gain favor or manipulate others.
"The unctuous grin on his face made it clear he was not to be trusted."

Detailed meaning of unctuous

When we characterize someone or their actions as unctuous, we emphasize their use of flattery and ingratiating behavior, often to an exaggerated or cloying extent. Unctuous individuals may employ excessive compliments or feigned warmth to curry favor or to mask their true intentions. This term conveys a sense of insincerity and self-serving motives, suggesting that the person's behavior is driven by a desire for personal gain rather than genuine care or concern. Whether it's an unctuous salesperson, an unctuous politician making grand promises, or unctuous behavior in a social setting, this adjective highlights the manipulative and often uncomfortable nature of such actions.

Example sentences containing unctuous

1. His unctuous tone made her uncomfortable, as if he was hiding something.
2. She found the unctuous salesman's pitch insincere.
3. The unctuous politician's speeches were filled with empty promises.
4. His unctuous manner made her doubt the authenticity of his apology.
5. The unctuous praise from her boss felt insincere.
6. The unctuous compliment made her feel uneasy.

History and etymology of unctuous

The adjective 'unctuous' has its etymological roots in Latin. It is derived from the Latin word 'unctus,' which is the past participle of 'unguere,' meaning 'to anoint' or 'to smear with oil.' In ancient Rome, anointing with oil was associated with acts of religious consecration, and oil was often used as a symbol of blessing or sanctification. However, over time, the term 'unctuous' shifted in meaning to describe someone who displays an excessive and often insincere display of charm, politeness, or flattery in an attempt to gain favor or manipulate others. This transformation in meaning likely occurred because anointing with oil could be seen as a superficial display of sanctity or piety. Therefore, the etymology of 'unctuous' reflects its historical connection to the act of anointing and the evolution of its meaning to describe behavior that is overly flattering and insincere, often with manipulative intentions.

Quiz: Find the meaning of unctuous

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Further usage examples of unctuous

1. He spoke with an unctuous tone, trying to ingratiate himself to the audience.
2. His unctuous attempts at flattery fell flat.
3. The unctuous oil on top of the soup made her feel nauseous.
4. She found the unctuous way he talked to her to be condescending.
5. The unctuous message in the email made her suspicious of the sender's intentions.
6. His unctuous compliments, dripping with insincerity, grated on her nerves.
7. The salesperson's unctuous demeanor, all smiles and flattery, was off-putting.
8. She saw through his unctuous charm immediately, sensing his hidden agenda.
9. His unctuous praise was a transparent attempt at ingratiating himself.
10. The politician's unctuous speeches couldn't conceal his true intentions.
11. The unctuous waiter's constant hovering made for an uncomfortable dining experience.
12. Her unctuous smile, though seemingly warm, concealed a calculating mind.
13. The unctuous tone of his voice, laden with insincerity, was hard to bear.
14. His unctuous words were intended to manipulate rather than reassure.
15. The unctuous behavior of the sycophant, always seeking approval, was cringeworthy.
16. The boss's unctuous compliments were seen as an attempt to curry favor.
17. Her unctuous flattery was met with suspicion and eye-rolls from her colleagues.
18. The unctuous salesman attempted to sell them something they clearly didn't need.
19. He could see through the unctuous facade of the phony guru, sensing deceit.
20. The unctuous praise from the rival team was dripping with sarcasm.
21. Her unctuous attempts to gain favor were transparent and ineffective.
22. The unctuous emails from the spammer were easily identified and deleted.
23. The unctuous politician's promises were met with skepticism and disbelief.
24. The unctuous actor's attempt at sincerity came across as rehearsed and insincere.
25. His unctuous behavior only served to alienate those around him, rather than endearing him to anyone.



oily, genuine, sincere, honest


GRE 10 (Graduate Record Examination), Artifice and Falseness, Character Traits and Behavior, Manipulation and Deception, Social Hierarchy and Relationships, Fake and Insincere

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