weasel word


Definition of weasel word

: a word used in order to evade or retreat from a direct or forthright statement or position

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Some people believe that weasels can suck the insides out of an egg without damaging the shell. An egg thus weasel-treated would look fine on the outside, but it would actually be empty and useless. We don't know if weasels can really do that, but the belief that they could caused people to start using "weasel word" to refer to any term intended to give the impression that everything is fine when the speaker is really trying to avoid answering a question, telling the truth, or taking the blame for something.

Examples of weasel word in a Sentence

“Reorganization” is just a weasel word that the company is using to say that jobs are being eliminated.
Recent Examples on the Web To be sure — three of my favorite weasel words — being able to sit on an inherited IRA for up to 10 years without being required to take annual distributions isn’t ungenerous. Allan Sloan, Washington Post, 14 Feb. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'weasel word.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of weasel word

1900, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for weasel word

from the weasel's reputed habit of sucking the contents out of an egg while leaving the shell superficially intact

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Time Traveler for weasel word

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The first known use of weasel word was in 1900

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Dictionary Entries Near weasel word

weasel spider

weasel word


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Cite this Entry

“Weasel word.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/weasel%20word. Accessed 26 May. 2022.

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