Is there a word that describes a discussion that never gets to the core of the issue, but continuously lingers on the periphery?

I was hoping to fit it into a sentence such as :

"He derided his retainers for their _____."

  • "Runaround" might fit in some circumstances.
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 25, 2015 at 1:01

4 Answers 4


Circumlocution might fit the bill, but it's more often applied to a single person speaking than a group having a discussion.


Definition: the use of many words to say something that could be said more clearly and directly by using fewer words

Another adjective that's commonly used is roundabout, as in "This is a roundabout discussion, when are we ever going to get to the meat of the matter?"

Pussyfooting or tiptoeing around issues are related words that you might want to consider if the context is appropriate. They are mostly used when someone (or a group) is cautiously approaching a very sensitive or contentious issue in an indirect and tangential fashion so as not to cause overt offence. These words are generally not used unless we're talking about a highly sensitive subject.

  • I guess I was looking more for a noun than an adjective describing such a discussion/conversation. I was hoping to fit it into a sentence such as; "He derided his retainers for their ..."
    – user293129
    Feb 25, 2015 at 1:08

Periphrastic. A synonym of circumlocutory & roundabout.


Are they supposed to be getting to the point, but enjoying the conversation too much and never get round to it, or are they actively avoiding getting to the point?

If they are dodging the issue completely, evasiveness, maybe prevarication. If they are unwilling to come out and say something uncomfortable, for beating around the bush (not one word, but it is a common phrase).

If they are trying to decide something and different groups can't agree, maybe they are vacillating, or if they are planning on getting to the point but cannot agree even on small details, maybe they are nitpicking or more recently bike-shedding.

If they are taking too long to get to the point, the discussion might be meandering.

If it's clear from the context that they are discussing something, any general word for slowness might fit: dawdling, dilly-dallying, timewasting.

  • Good suggestions to work with, thank you. Guess it will require a longer construction than I hoped for.
    – user293129
    Feb 26, 2015 at 1:35

Superficial: one that lacks depth or remains in surface.

Orbiting: Revolving around something over and over again.

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