Definition of euphemism in US English:



  • A mild or indirect word or expression substituted for one considered to be too harsh or blunt when referring to something unpleasant or embarrassing.

    ‘“downsizing” as a euphemism for cuts’
    The opposite of dysphemism
    • ‘Such mild, culinary euphemisms muffled and camouflaged the enforced famines and the murders of millions.’
    • ‘Ratios are now commonly being used as euphemisms to express calamity.’
    • ‘Notably, the word ‘challenge’ was used as a euphemism to gloss over the existence of serious problems.’
    • ‘It was like a euphemism for a dirty word, he'd rather people'd just said the word than try to make it seem nicer.’
    • ‘Each drawn shoe is accompanied by a blunt euphemism from the history of conflict.’
    • ‘It shows that the trend to hide unpleasant truths behind euphemisms is alive and well.’
    • ‘She wants to reclaim the word old and rejects euphemisms like elderly and seniors.’
    • ‘As a practical matter, the current legal regime substitutes palliative euphemisms for useful controls on police discretion.’
    • ‘Reform is a polite euphemism for forcing banks to close out bad loans, enforce bankruptcy and require layoffs of excess workers.’
    • ‘Women are more likely to use polite euphemisms for topics such as death and sex.’
    • ‘I don't like euphemisms or euphemistic language.’
    • ‘We have lots of euphemisms for menstruation, and we don't refer to it unless in the company of women, and rarely even then.’
    • ‘As I remember, it was shortly after the word gay became the euphemism for homosexual.’
    • ‘A simple chat with her could be downright frustrating when she didn't understand half of the euphemisms being used.’
    • ‘Like all euphemisms, pedophilia and ephebophilia are words meant to protect us from realities too painful to confront.’
    • ‘Languages are constantly developing euphemisms for sex words.’
    • ‘Sir John could be counted on not to speak in mild euphemisms.’
    • ‘He appeared his boldest; he was not one to speak in mild euphemisms.’
    • ‘Instead, they hide behind a wall of euphemisms, refusing even to use the word ‘disabled’.’
    • ‘‘Environmental design’ is just one of the many euphemisms for the ubertrendy catch words Feng Shui.’
    polite term, substitute, mild alternative, indirect term, understatement, underplaying, softening, politeness, genteelism, coy term
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Late 16th century: from Greek euphēmismos, from euphēmizein ‘use auspicious words’, from eu ‘well’ + phēmē ‘speaking’.