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Are there any differences between the verbs sweet-talk, smooth-talk, butter up, suck up to, cajole, coax, wheedle, inveigle, beguile, and get round someone ?

I am aware that this question is very long, but I have been trying to figure out the nuances of each term for the past few days now, to no avail. I have even used ChatGPT and Gemini to help, but there still seems to be much overlap between many of these terms.

In fact, I have been told a lot about their meanings, sometimes even getting contradictory information. Some people have argued that cajole and coax are about using gentle persuasion, while others have claimed that they are rather aggressive. What's more, depending on the sources/people, wheedle either means to plead someone in order to get something from them, to be annoying until someone gives in because they are fed up, or is just synonymous with butter up. About the latter, the difference is still unclear with suck up to. It is also unclear what sweet-talk and smooth-talk actually mean. According to some, they are just synonymous with butter up and suck up to, while to others, they are specifically used in romantic contexts, and lastly, others claim that they are broader in that they mean to create an emotional connection with someone.

As for inveigle and beguile, their specific nuances are not clear too for there seems to be overlap between them. Both apparently mean to persuade someone to do something in a deceitful way, but I cannot really see how they differ in terms of tactic.

Finally, I think that get round means using charm to persuade someone, but according to some, it could be about somehow "bypassing" someone's initial rules/projects etc, which I find uneasy to understand.

Anyway, by and large, all these verbs seem to overlap to me.

Thank you for helping me !

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  • Sucking up to a person in authority is going out of your way to please them in hopes of winning their favour in general, not of getting them to do one thing in particular. Commented Jun 19 at 7:51
  • If you looked these words up in the dictionary and saw that there was overlap in their meanings, what additional information are you looking for? Do you suspect they must each have a unique meaning?
    – dubious
    Commented Jun 19 at 10:46

1 Answer 1

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Inveigle implies using deceitful means to an end, while cajole is the use of sustained, sometimes obsequious, flattery.

Coax is a more gentle form of persuasion, but persistent, or relentless, in its approach.

Butter up is a visual/tactile term, using the slipperiness of butter as a metaphor for flattery.

Beguile has several meanings, from using one's physical or intellectual charms, (sexual attraction or witty conversation, respectively,) to achieve an end on the positive side, to using deception or trickery on the negative side.

Any good dictionary will have these words with examples to delineate the subtle, and not so subtle, differences.

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  • We generally ask that answers here include citations from reliable sources, e.g. dictionaries.
    – alphabet
    Commented Jun 19 at 3:07
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    I understand the need for citations, but as a writer, I think my words speak for themselves. Links to the online Merriam-Webster dictionary have been added, however, for the sake of following the rules.
    – IconDaemon
    Commented Jun 19 at 12:24

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