euphemism

play
noun eu·phe·mism \ˈyü-fə-ˌmi-zəm\

Definition of euphemism

  1. :  the substitution of an agreeable or inoffensive expression for one that may offend or suggest something unpleasant; also :  the expression so substituted

euphemist

play \ˈyü-fə-mist\ noun

euphemistic

play \ˌyü-fə-ˈmi-stik\ adjective

euphemistically

play \ˌyü-fə-ˈmi-sti-k(ə-)lē\ adverb

euphemism was our Word of the Day on 08/07/2015. Hear the podcast!

Examples of euphemism in a sentence

  1. Cougar is the euphemism for a woman who has reached mid-life, who is single, financially secure and on the lookout for relationships with younger men—as in “prey.” —Kerry Gold, Vancouver Sun, 17 Feb. 2001

  2. “Invigorating” is the euphemism we use most often to describe the chilly waters off the coast, but knowledgeable Maine boaters know where to find the warmer, tidal waters just right for a midsummer dip. —Ken Textor, Down East, August 2001

  3. Spin is sometimes dismissed as a simple euphemism for lying. But it's actually something more insidious: indifference to the truth. —Michael Kinsley, Time, 25 Dec. 2000–1 Jan. 2001

  4. If you are “let go,” “separated,” “terminated” or whatever euphemism the company uses for “clean-out-your-desk-and-be-gone,” remember that you do have rights. —Elsie Maclay, First for Women, July 1989

  5. using eliminate as a euphemism for kill

How and Why We Use euphemisms

Euphemisms can take different forms, but they all involve substituting a word or phrase considered to be less offensive than another. The substituted word might, for example, be viewed as a less coarse choice, as when dang or darn is used instead of damn or damned. Or it might replace a word viewed as insulting to a religious figure, such as the various euphemisms for God (gad, gadzooks, gosh) or Jesus (gee, jeepers, jeez). A euphemism may also consist of an indirect softening phrase that is substituted for the straightforward naming of something unpalatable. Thus, we hear of people being “let go” rather than “fired”; civilians killed in war described as “collateral damage”; or someone who has died having “kicked the bucket,” “passed away, “given up the ghost,” or “joined one’s ancestors.”

Did You Know?

Euphemism derives from the Greek word euphēmos, which means "auspicious" or "sounding good." The first part of "euphēmos" is the Greek prefix eu-, meaning "well." The second part is "phēmē," a Greek word for "speech" that is itself a derivative of the verb phanai, meaning "to speak." Among the numerous linguistic cousins of "euphemism" on the "eu-" side of the family are "eulogy," "euphoria," and "euthanasia"; on the "phanai" side, its kin include "prophet" and "aphasia" ("loss of the power to understand words").

Origin and Etymology of euphemism

Greek euphēmismos, from euphēmos auspicious, sounding good, from eu- + phēmē speech, from phanai to speak — more at ban


First Known Use: circa 1681


EUPHEMISM Defined for English Language Learners

euphemism

play
noun eu·phe·mism \ˈyü-fə-ˌmi-zəm\

Definition of euphemism for English Language Learners

  • : a mild or pleasant word or phrase that is used instead of one that is unpleasant or offensive



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