You might know the idea of the adjective unctuous by other words like "oily," "smarmy," or overly "flattering." When a person is unctuous, you can't trust their kindness, because they usually want something in return.

Interestingly, unctuous is derived from the Latin unctus which means "anointed with oil," which is where the oily connotation comes from. Unctuous and oily are synonyms that both suggest that someone is trying to butter you up; they're being nice, because they're hoping you'll give them what they want. Talk-show hosts, used-car salesmen, people who want your job: all of these are people we think of (rightly or wrongly) as being unctuous. Being an unctuous jerk, he gave me a gift, hoping I'd give him a record deal.

Definitions of unctuous
  1. adjective
    unpleasantly and excessively suave or ingratiating in manner or speech
    “the unctuous Uriah Heep”
    synonyms: buttery, fulsome, oily, oleaginous, smarmy, soapy
    lacking sincerity
  2. adjective
    containing an unusual amount of grease or oil
    synonyms: greasy, oily, oleaginous, sebaceous
    fat, fatty
    containing or composed of fat
Word Family

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