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euphemism

[yoo-fuh-miz-uh m]
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noun
  1. the substitution of a mild, indirect, or vague expression for one thought to be offensive, harsh, or blunt.
  2. the expression so substituted: “To pass away” is a euphemism for “to die.”
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Origin of euphemism

1650–60; < Greek euphēmismós the use of words of good omen, equivalent to eu- eu- + phḗm(ē) speaking, fame + -ismos -ism
Related formseu·phe·mist, nouneu·phe·mis·tic, eu·phe·mis·ti·cal, eu·phe·mi·ous [yoo-fee-mee-uh s] /yuˈfi mi əs/, adjectiveeu·phe·mis·ti·cal·ly, eu·phe·mi·ous·ly, adverbun·eu·phe·mis·tic, adjectiveun·eu·phe·mis·ti·cal, adjectiveun·eu·phe·mis·ti·cal·ly, adverb
Can be confusedeuphemism euphuism
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words

grandiloquence, circumlocution, delicacy, inflation, pomposity, pretense, purism

Examples from the Web for euphemism

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • A euphemism of kleptomania had been offered and accepted as sufficient excuse for her crime.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • He paused, not knowing what euphemism to supply for the thing his lordship must have done.

    The Lion's Skin

    Rafael Sabatini

  • As applied to her, the term: coveralls, regulation, gray was strictly a euphemism.

    Attrition

    Jim Wannamaker

  • Euphemism, the choice of words not harsh for harsh ideas, has its uses.

    English: Composition and Literature

    W. F. (William Franklin) Webster

  • For finiteness and nothingness are identical; finiteness is only a euphemism for nothingness.


British Dictionary definitions for euphemism

euphemism

noun
  1. an inoffensive word or phrase substituted for one considered offensive or hurtful, esp one concerned with religion, sex, death, or excreta. Examples of euphemisms are sleep with for have sexual intercourse with; departed for dead; relieve oneself for urinate
  2. the use of such inoffensive words or phrases
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Derived Formseuphemistic, adjectiveeuphemistically, adverb

Word Origin

C17: from Greek euphēmismos, from eu- + phēmē speech
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 euphemism

n.

1650s, from Greek euphemismos "use of a favorable word in place of an inauspicious one," from euphemizein "speak with fair words, use words of good omen," from eu- "good" (see eu-) + pheme "speaking," from phanai "speak" (see fame (n.)).

In ancient Greece, the superstitious avoidance of words of ill-omen during religious ceremonies, or substitutions such as Eumenides "the Gracious Ones" for the Furies (see also Euxine). In English, a rhetorical term at first; broader sense of "choosing a less distasteful word or phrase than the one meant" is first attested 1793. Related: Euphemistic; euphemistically.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

euphemism in Culture

euphemism

[(yooh-fuh-miz-uhm)]

An agreeable word or expression substituted for one that is potentially offensive, often having to do with bodily functions, sex, or death; for example, rest room for toilet, lady of the evening for prostitute. The Nazis used euphemism in referring to their plan to murder the world's Jews (see also Jews) as “the Final Solution.”

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The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.