Euphuism (Gr. elegant), an affected style of speech which distinguished the conversation and writings of many of the wits at the court of Queen Elizabeth. The name and the style were derived from the "Euphues, the Anatomy of Wit" (1580), and the "Euphues and his England" (1581), of John Lilly, of which Anthony a Wood said: "Our nation is indebted for a new English in them, which the flower of the youth thereof learned." The style of these once famed books, which became the model of the wits and gallants of the time, and was almost regarded as a test of courtly breeding, was characterized by smoothness and verbal elegance, and chiefly by fantastic similes and illustrations formed by attributing fanciful and fabulous properties to animals, vegetables, and minerals. Supported by fashionable sanction, Lilly was for a time esteemed the rival of Demosthenes and Cicero in " all the partes of rhetoricke, in fitte phrases, in pithy sentences, in gallant tropes, in flowing speech." But the applause was not universal.
Euphuism is ridiculed in Marston's comedy of "What You Will" and Ben Jonson's "Cynthia's Revels," and is thought to be referred to in the style of Don Armado in Shakespeare's " Love's Labor's Lost." Sir Walter Scott in his "Monastery" makes Sir Piercie Shafton " parley euphuism."