Definition of scare quotes in US English:

scare quotes

plural noun

  • Quotation marks used around a word or phrase when they are not required, thereby eliciting attention or doubts.

    ‘putting the term “global warming” in scare quotes serves to subtly cast doubt on the reality of such a phenomenon’
    • ‘Many sources state that different branches of ‘organized crime,’ a term that now must be placed in scare quotes, have formed global alliances.’
    • ‘The scare quotes must be a sign of hypersensitivity because the region's economy was indeed rudimentary at the time.’
    • ‘Looking back at my first post in this thread, the scare quotes that crop up in the second paragraph should have reoccurred in the third.’
    • ‘I can't imagine scare quotes big enough for that word.’
    • ‘It is difficult not to put scare quotes around the word spiritual, which is notoriously vague, if not meaningless, in contemporary usage.’
    • ‘This is why Heidegger draws attention to the fact that the word ‘essence’ is in scare quotes.’
    • ‘I will put it in scare quotes, because it feels like a word I need tongs for.’
    • ‘One chapter is called ‘The Rise and Fall of a ‘Socialist’, the scare quotes presumably intended to support Lucas's thesis that Orwell ended up as an apolitical liberal.’
    • ‘It strikes me as a false premise to frame a law and order issue using moral terms regardless if they are in scare quotes or not.’
    • ‘The pamphlet clearly and specifically talked about a 1,500-sow farrow-to-finish ‘operation,’ not a single barn as Mr. Hamm's scare quotes would have us believe.’
    • ‘An exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art took the word primitive with a grain of salt, as indicated by the scare quotes around it in the title.’
    • ‘I carefully put scare quotes around words such as ‘pleasure’ and ‘suffering’ in describing positive and negative emotional states.’
    • ‘I am using scare quotes because I am not sure who ‘we’ is - do you mean the whole culture of which you are a part, or just the governing elements of that culture?’
    • ‘The reason for the scare quotes around CD is that the term CD is a trademark of the Philips company.’
    • ‘I put ‘correct’ in scare quotes because there is always some uncertainty about how to anglicize the pronunciation of a foreign name that contains sounds without an English counterpart.’
    • ‘To a lawyer, the scare quotes may simply indicate a legally defined term, but to a lay person they produce the opposite effect: rather than grounding the term, they undermine it.’
    • ‘He uses parentheses, scare quotes, and a question mark to indicate his insecurity with the use of the word ‘speako’ to refer to the oral equivalent of a ‘typo’.’
    • ‘In conversation, speakers may indicate their use of such scare quotes by making finger movements that suggest quotation marks.’
    • ‘In fact, R.D. was careful to put the words ‘missing links’ in scare quotes.’
    • ‘I am trying to avoid the scare quotes but am again duly nervous about talking about feminine and masculine qualities.’


scare quotes