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four-letter word

[fawr-let-er, fohr-]
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noun
  1. any of a number of short words, usually of four letters, considered offensive or vulgar because of their reference to excrement or sex.
  2. any word, typically of four letters, that represents something forbidden, disliked, or regarded with extreme distaste: In the dieter's vocabulary, “cake” is a four-letter word.

Origin of four-letter word

First recorded in 1925–30
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018
British Dictionary definitions for four-letter word

four-letter word

noun
  1. any of several short English words referring to sex or excrement: often used as swearwords and regarded generally as offensive or obscene
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Idioms and Phrases with four-letter word

four-letter word

Any of several short English words that are generally regarded as vulgar or obscene. For example, No four-letter words are permitted in this classroom. This expression is applied mostly to words describing excretory or sexual functions. [First half of 1900s]

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.