Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Characterized by affected, exaggerated, or insincere earnestness: "the unctuous, complacent court composer who is consumed with envy and self-loathing” ( Rhoda Koenig).
  • adj. Having the quality or characteristics of oil or ointment; slippery.
  • adj. Containing or composed of oil or fat.
  • adj. Abundant in organic materials; soft and rich: unctuous soil.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Oily or greasy.
  • adj. Rich, lush, intense, with layers of concentrated, soft, velvety flavor.
  • adj. Profusely polite, especially unpleasantly so and insincerely earnest.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Of the nature or quality of an unguent or ointment; fatty; oily; greasy.
  • adj. Having a smooth, greasy feel, as certain minerals.
  • adj. Bland; suave; also, tender; fervid; ; sometimes, insincerely suave or fervid.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Of the nature of or resembling an unguent or ointment; greasy; oily; fat; soapy.
  • oily, or soapy feel when rubbed or touched by the fingers—a characteristic of steatite, talc, serpentine, and other magnesian minerals, due to the magnesia which they contain.
  • Having or characterized by unction; tending to religious fervor; especially, falsely or affectedly fervid, devotional, emotional, gushing, or the like; excessively bland or suave.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. unpleasantly and excessively suave or ingratiating in manner or speech

Etymologies

Middle English, from Old French unctueus, from Medieval Latin ūnctuōsus, from Latin ūnctum, ointment, from neuter past participle of unguere, to anoint.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Medieval Latin unctuōsus (“oily”), from Latin unguere, ungere ("to anoint"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • The staff in unctuous to regulars and condescending to those of us who still dress as if we lived in Seattle.

    Look No Further: Seattle’s Best Dining Deal « PubliCola

  • Now, I don't know if my unctuous is the same as your unctuous, you know, so - but it came out great.

    To Market, To Market: 10 Top Summer Cookbooks

  • Everyone will recall the unctuous Walter Cronkite, a man with a face only a nation could love, interviewing an out-of-control Mayor Richard J. Daley, a man with a face that during that convention a whole nation came to loathe.

    A Secret Good Place

  • BTW: the word "unctuous" used above is not a misspelling.

    More about sociopaths in American politics

  • And then I tasted it, and it, you know, had this kind of unctuous, porty richness, which is characteristic of that wine -- that it sort of resembles port in a lot of ways.

    Benjamin Wallace on the price of happiness

  • This kind of unctuous posturing doesn't exactly make traditionalists insecure in their position; it tends to make traditionalists cranky, because the hypocrisy is pretty evident.

    Hillary's strange way of opposing the South Carolina flag.

  • My friend Nico and I have a longstanding & ongoing correspondence about this sort of meat, he sends me "unctuous" links very regularly!

    Talking Meat

  • The _Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal_, 13-368, mentions an "unctuous" substance that fell near Rotterdam, in 1832.

    The Book of the Damned

  • The paragraph continued on its way through the press, and whenever he took up a newspaper he seemed to come upon it, slightly modified, variously developed, but always reverting with a kind of unctuous irony to his financial preoccupations and his wife's consequent loneliness.

    The Custom of the Country

  • I dislike the sound of the word "unctuous", it sounds like the reviewer is trying too hard.

    The Full Feed from HuffingtonPost.com

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Comments

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  • "Isaac had been staring anxiously at the class when that unctuous bastard Vermishank had looked in." From Perdido Street Station by China Meiville.

    September 18, 2011

  • This word is the first that comes to mind to describe Mr. Collins from Pride and Prejudice.

    August 5, 2008

  • 'The coffee is free,'
    an unctuous maître d'hôtel
    once told him at lunch.
    'If it's free it is ghastly,
    or you, sir, are a jackass.'

    - Peter Reading, Limns, from Tom O' Bedlam's Beauties, 1981

    June 28, 2008

  • Have no fear. Sionnach's on it. :-)

    October 9, 2007

  • See also extreme unction, which I certainly hope someone has listed on their "Catholic Words" list...

    October 9, 2007

  • "Now we can all be unctuous British gossip bitches" - Jordan McDeere, Studio 60

    October 9, 2007

  • Greasy uncle?

    October 9, 2007

  • -excessive piousness
    -oily or soapy feel

    September 14, 2007