[ dis-fuh-miz-uhm ]
/ ˈdɪs fəˌmɪz əm /


the substitution of a harsh, disparaging, or unpleasant expression for a more neutral one.
an expression so substituted, as “cancer stick” for “cigarette.”

Origin of dysphemism

First recorded in 1880–85; dys- + (eu)phemism
ANTONYMS FOR dysphemism
Related formsdys·phe·mis·tic, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for dysphemism


/ (ˈdɪsfɪˌmɪzəm) /


substitution of a derogatory or offensive word or phrase for an innocuous one
the word or phrase so substituted
Derived Formsdysphemistic, adjective

Word Origin for dysphemism

C19: dys- + euphemism
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

Word Origin and History for dysphemism



1884, "substitution of a vulgar or derogatory word or expression for a dignified or normal one," from Greek dys- "bad, abnormal, difficult" (see dys-) + pheme "speaking," from phanai "speak" (see fame (n.); Greek dysphemia meant "ill language, words of ill omen"). The opposite of euphemism. Rediscovered 1933 from French formation dysphémisme (1927, Carnoy).

The French psychologist Albert J. Carnoy gave an extensive definition in his study Le Science du Mot, which in translation runs: "Dysphemism is unpitying, brutal, mocking. It is also a reaction against pedantry, rigidity and pretentiousness, but also against nobility and dignity in language" (1927, xxii, 351). [Geoffrey L. Hughes, "An Encyclopedia of Swearing," 2006]
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper