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[yoo-fuh-miz-uh m] /ˈyu fəˌmɪz əm/
the substitution of a mild, indirect, or vague expression for one thought to be offensive, harsh, or blunt.
the expression so substituted: “To pass away” is a euphemism for “to die.”.
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 forms
euphemist, noun
euphemistic, euphemistical, euphemious
[yoo-fee-mee-uh s] /yuˈfi mi əs/ (Show IPA),
euphemistically, euphemiously, adverb
uneuphemistic, adjective
uneuphemistical, adjective
uneuphemistically, adverb
Can be confused
euphemism, euphuism. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for euphemism
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • For finiteness and nothingness are identical; finiteness is only a euphemism for nothingness.

    The Essence of Christianity Ludwig Feuerbach
  • A euphemism of kleptomania had been offered and accepted as sufficient excuse for her crime.

    Within the Law Marvin Dana
  • This term was a euphemism to emphasize the transformation of their hitherto immediate into a mediate relation to the Empire.

    The Life of Napoleon Bonaparte William Milligan Sloane
  • He paused, not knowing what euphemism to supply for the thing his lordship must have done.

    The Lion's Skin Rafael Sabatini
  • One indignant Saint, with a talent for euphemism, was heard to say, "Brigham will have his spirit disembodied!"

    The Lions of the Lord Harry Leon Wilson
British Dictionary definitions for euphemism


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
the use of such inoffensive words or phrases
Derived Forms
euphemistic, adjective
euphemistically, 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
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Word Origin and History for euphemism

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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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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 as “the Final Solution.”

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