euphuism (yōō´fyōōĬzəm), in English literature, a highly elaborate and artificial style that derived from the Euphues (1578) of John Lyly and that flourished in England in the 1580s. It was characterized by extensive use of simile and illustration, balanced construction, alliteration, and antithesis. Euphuism played an important role in English literary history by demonstrating the capabilities of English prose. The term has come to mean an artificial, precious, high-flown style of writing.
precious style of diction characteristic of John Lyly's ‘Euphues
, the anatomy of wyt’ (1579) and ‘Euphues
and his England
’ (1580). XVI. f. Gr. euphuḗs
well endowed by nature, f. EU-
(BE); see -ISM
an artificial, highly elaborate way of writing or speaking. Recorded from the late 16th century, the word comes from late 16th century: from Euphues
, the name of a character in John Lyly
's prose romance of the same name (1578–80), from Greek euphuēs
‘well endowed by nature’. It originally referred to a conversational and literary style popular in the late 16th and early 17th centuries in imitation of Lyly's work.