A euphemism is the substitution of a mild, inoffensive, relatively uncontroversial phrase for another more frank expression that might offend or otherwise suggest something unpleasant to the audience.

Some euphemisms are intended to amuse, while others are created to mislead or at least put a positive spin on events – one of the more stark examples being friendly fire
Friendly fire
Friendly fire is inadvertent firing towards one's own or otherwise friendly forces while attempting to engage enemy forces, particularly where this results in injury or death. A death resulting from a negligent discharge is not considered friendly fire...

, which means accidentally firing at and perhaps killing troops that are ostensible allies.


The word euphemism comes from the Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 word ευφημία (euphemia), meaning "the use of words of good omen", which in turn is derived from the Greek root-words eu (ευ), "good/well" + pheme (φήμι) "speech/speaking". The eupheme was originally a word or phrase used in place of a religious word or phrase that should not be spoken aloud; etymologically, the eupheme is the opposite of the blaspheme
Blasphemy is irreverence towards religious or holy persons or things. Some countries have laws to punish blasphemy, while others have laws to give recourse to those who are offended by blasphemy...

(evil-speaking). Primary examples of taboo words requiring the use of a euphemism are names for deities, such as Persephone
In Greek mythology, Persephone , also called Kore , is the daughter of Zeus and the harvest-goddess Demeter, and queen of the underworld; she was abducted by Hades, the god-king of the underworld....

, Hecate
Hecate or Hekate is a chthonic Greco-Roman goddess associated with magic, witchcraft, necromancy, and crossroads.She is attested in poetry as early as Hesiod's Theogony...

, or Nemesis
Nemesis (mythology)
In Greek mythology, Nemesis , also called Rhamnousia/Rhamnusia at her sanctuary at Rhamnous, north of Marathon, was the spirit of divine retribution against those who succumb to hubris . The Greeks personified vengeful fate as a remorseless goddess: the goddess of revenge...

. The term euphemism itself was used as a euphemism by the ancient Greeks, meaning "to keep a holy silence" (speaking well by not speaking at all).

Historical linguistics
Historical linguistics
Historical linguistics is the study of language change. It has five main concerns:* to describe and account for observed changes in particular languages...

 has revealed traces of taboo deformations in many languages. Several are known to have occurred in Indo-European languages
Indo-European languages
The Indo-European languages are a family of several hundred related languages and dialects, including most major current languages of Europe, the Iranian plateau, and South Asia and also historically predominant in Anatolia...

, including the presumed original Proto-Indo-European
Proto-Indo-European language
The Proto-Indo-European language is the reconstructed common ancestor of the Indo-European languages, spoken by the Proto-Indo-Europeans...

 words for bear
Bears are mammals of the family Ursidae. Bears are classified as caniforms, or doglike carnivorans, with the pinnipeds being their closest living relatives. Although there are only eight living species of bear, they are widespread, appearing in a wide variety of habitats throughout the Northern...

(*rkso), wolf (*wlkwo), and deer
Deer are the ruminant mammals forming the family Cervidae. Species in the Cervidae family include white-tailed deer, elk, moose, red deer, reindeer, fallow deer, roe deer and chital. Male deer of all species and female reindeer grow and shed new antlers each year...

(originally, hart—although the word hart
Deer are the ruminant mammals forming the family Cervidae. Species in the Cervidae family include white-tailed deer, elk, moose, red deer, reindeer, fallow deer, roe deer and chital. Male deer of all species and female reindeer grow and shed new antlers each year...

 remained commonplace in parts of England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 until the 20th century as is witnessed by the widespread use of the pub sign The White Hart
White Hart
The White Hart was the personal emblem and livery of Richard II, who derived it from the arms of his mother, Joan "The Fair Maid of Kent", heiress of Edmund of Woodstock...

). In different Indo-European languages, each of these words has a difficult etymology
Etymology is the study of the history of words, their origins, and how their form and meaning have changed over time.For languages with a long written history, etymologists make use of texts in these languages and texts about the languages to gather knowledge about how words were used during...

 because of taboo deformations — a euphemism was substituted for the original, which no longer occurs in the language. An example is the Slavic root for bear*medu-ed-, which means "honey eater". Names in Germanic languages—including English—are derived from the color brown. Another example in English is donkey
The donkey or ass, Equus africanus asinus, is a domesticated member of the Equidae or horse family. The wild ancestor of the donkey is the African Wild Ass, E...

replacing the old Indo-European-derived word ass. The word dandelion (literally, tooth of lion, referring to the shape of the leaves) is another example, being a substitute for pissenlit, meaning "wet the bed", a possible reference to the fact that dandelion was used as a diuretic. The Talmud
The Talmud is a central text of mainstream Judaism. It takes the form of a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, philosophy, customs and history....

 describes the blind as having "much light" (Aramaic
Aramaic language
Aramaic is a group of languages belonging to the Afroasiatic language phylum. The name of the language is based on the name of Aram, an ancient region in central Syria. Within this family, Aramaic belongs to the Semitic family, and more specifically, is a part of the Northwest Semitic subfamily,...

 סגי נהור) and this phrase—sagee nahor—is the Modern Hebrew
Modern Hebrew
Modern Hebrew , also known as Israeli Hebrew or Modern Israeli Hebrew, is the language spoken in Israel and in some Jewish communities worldwide, from the early 20th century to the present....

 for euphemism.

In some languages of the Pacific
Austronesian languages
The Austronesian languages are a language family widely dispersed throughout the islands of Southeast Asia and the Pacific, with a few members spoken on continental Asia that are spoken by about 386 million people. It is on par with Indo-European, Niger-Congo, Afroasiatic and Uralic as one of the...

, using the name of a deceased chief is taboo
Taboo against naming the dead
The taboo against naming the dead is a kind of taboo on the dead whereby the name of a recently deceased person, and any other words similar to it in sound, may not be uttered...

. Among indigenous Australians
Indigenous Australians
Indigenous Australians are the original inhabitants of the Australian continent and nearby islands. The Aboriginal Indigenous Australians migrated from the Indian continent around 75,000 to 100,000 years ago....

, it is forbidden to use the name, image, or audio-visual recording of the deceased; the Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation, commonly referred to as "the ABC" , is Australia's national public broadcaster...

 now publishes a warning to indigenous Australians when using names, images or audio-visual recordings of people who have died.

Since people are often named after everyday things, this leads to the swift development of euphemisms. New names are frequently required when an old one becomes taboo. These languages have a very high rate of vocabulary change.

In a similar manner, in imperial China, writers of classical Chinese
Classical Chinese
Classical Chinese or Literary Chinese is a traditional style of written Chinese based on the grammar and vocabulary of ancient Chinese, making it different from any modern spoken form of Chinese...

 texts were expected to avoid using characters contained within the name of the currently ruling emperor as a sign of respect
Naming taboo
Naming taboo is a cultural taboo against speaking or writing the given names of exalted persons in China and neighboring nations in the ancient Chinese cultural sphere.-Kinds of naming taboo:...

. In these instances, the relevant characters were replaced by synonyms. (This practice may provide a fairly accurate means of dating a document.)

The common name
Common name
A common name of a taxon or organism is a name in general use within a community; it is often contrasted with the scientific name for the same organism...

s of illicit drugs
Illegal drug trade
The illegal drug trade is a global black market, dedicated to cultivation, manufacture, distribution and sale of those substances which are subject to drug prohibition laws. Most jurisdictions prohibit trade, except under license, of many types of drugs by drug prohibition laws.A UN report said the...

, and the plants used to obtain them, often undergo a process similar to taboo deformation, because new terms are devised in order to discuss them secretly in the presence of others. This process often occurs in English (e.g. speed or crank for meth) and is really slang formation, as it often is not intended to substitute a softer term. It occurs even more in Spanish, e.g., the deformation of names for cannabis: mota (literally, "something that moves" on the black market), replacing grifa (literally, "something coarse to the touch"), replacing marihuana (a female personal name
Personal name
A personal name is the proper name identifying an individual person, and today usually comprises a given name bestowed at birth or at a young age plus a surname. It is nearly universal for a human to have a name; except in rare cases, for example feral children growing up in isolation, or infants...

, María Juana), replacing cáñamo (the original Spanish name for the plant, derived from the Latin genus name Cannabis). All four of these names are still used in various parts of the Hispanophone world, although cáñamo ironically has the least underworld connotation, and is often used to describe industrial hemp
Hemp is mostly used as a name for low tetrahydrocannabinol strains of the plant Cannabis sativa, of fiber and/or oilseed varieties. In modern times, hemp has been used for industrial purposes including paper, textiles, biodegradable plastics, construction, health food and fuel with modest...

, or legitimate medically-prescribed cannabis.


  • Abstraction
    Abstraction is a process by which higher concepts are derived from the usage and classification of literal concepts, first principles, or other methods....

    s and ambiguities (it for excrement, the situation for pregnancy, going to the other side for death, do it or come together in reference to a sexual act, tired and emotional
    Tired and emotional
    The phrase tired and emotional is a chiefly British euphemism for drunk. It was popularised by the British satirical magazine Private Eye in 1967 after being used in a spoof diplomatic memo to describe the state of Labour Cabinet minister George Brown, but is now used as a stock phrase...

    for drunkenness.)
  • Indirection
    In computer programming, indirection is the ability to reference something using a name, reference, or container instead of the value itself. The most common form of indirection is the act of manipulating a value through its memory address. For example, accessing a variable through the use of a...

    s (behind, unmentionables, privates, live together, go to the bathroom, sleep together)
  • Mispronunciation
    Mispronunciation is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as "incorrect or inaccurate pronunciation". The matter of what is or is not mispronunciation is a contentious one, and indeed there is some disagreement about the extent to which the term is even meaningful...

     (goldarnit, dadgummit, effing c, freakin, be-atch, shootsee minced oath
    Minced oath
    A minced oath is an expression based on a profanity or a taboo term that has been altered to reduce the objectionable characteristics.Many languages have such expressions...

  • Litotes
    In rhetoric, litotes is a figure of speech in which understatement is employed for rhetorical effect when an idea is expressed by a denial of its opposite, principally via double negatives....

     or reserved understatement (not exactly thin for "fat", not completely truthful for "lied", not unlike cheating for "an instance of cheating")
  • Changing nouns to modifiers: e.g. ...makes her look slutty for " a slut", right-wing element for "Right Wing")
  • Personal names, such as John Thomas or Willy for "penis
    The penis is a biological feature of male animals including both vertebrates and invertebrates...

    ", Fanny for "vulva
    The vulva consists of the external genital organs of the female mammal. This article deals with the vulva of the human being, although the structures are similar for other mammals....

    " (British English).
  • Slang
    Slang is the use of informal words and expressions that are not considered standard in the speaker's language or dialect but are considered more acceptable when used socially. Slang is often to be found in areas of the lexicon that refer to things considered taboo...

    , e.g. pot for "cannabis
    Cannabis is a genus of flowering plants that includes three putative species, Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. These three taxa are indigenous to Central Asia, and South Asia. Cannabis has long been used for fibre , for seed and seed oils, for medicinal purposes, and as a...

    ", laid for "having sexual intercourse" and so on.

There is some disagreement over whether certain terms are or are not euphemisms. For example, sometimes the phrase visually impaired is labeled as a politically correct
Political correctness
Political correctness is a term which denotes language, ideas, policies, and behavior seen as seeking to minimize social and institutional offense in occupational, gender, racial, cultural, sexual orientation, certain other religions, beliefs or ideologies, disability, and age-related contexts,...

 euphemism for blind. However, visual impairment
Visual impairment
Visual impairment is vision loss to such a degree as to qualify as an additional support need through a significant limitation of visual capability resulting from either disease, trauma, or congenital or degenerative conditions that cannot be corrected by conventional means, such as refractive...

 can be a broader term, including, for example, people who have partial sight in one eye, or even those with uncorrected mild to moderate poor vision, a group that would be excluded by the word blind.

There are three antonym
In lexical semantics, opposites are words that lie in an inherently incompatible binary relationship as in the opposite pairs male : female, long : short, up : down, and precede : follow. The notion of incompatibility here refers to the fact that one word in an opposite pair entails that it is not...

s of euphemism: dysphemism
In language, dysphemism, malphemism, and cacophemism refer to the usage of an intentionally harsh, rather than polite, word or expression; roughly the opposite of euphemism...

, cacophemism, and power word. The first can be either offensive or merely humorously deprecating with the second one generally used more often in the sense of something deliberately offensive. The last is used mainly in arguments to make a point seem more correct.


Euphemisms may be formed in a number of ways. Periphrasis
In linguistics, periphrasis is a device by which a grammatical category or grammatical relationship is expressed by a free morpheme , instead of being shown by inflection or derivation...

or circumlocution
Circumlocution is an ambiguous or roundabout figure of speech...

is one of the most common — to "speak around" a given word, implying
Implicature is a technical term in the pragmatics subfield of linguistics, coined by H. P. Grice, which refers to what is suggested in an utterance, even though neither expressed nor strictly implied by the utterance...

 it without saying it. Over time, circumlocutions become recognized as established euphemisms for particular words or ideas.

To alter the pronunciation or spelling of a taboo
A taboo is a strong social prohibition relating to any area of human activity or social custom that is sacred and or forbidden based on moral judgment, religious beliefs and or scientific consensus. Breaking the taboo is usually considered objectionable or abhorrent by society...

 word (such as a swear word) to form a euphemism is known as taboo deformation. There is an astonishing number of taboo deformations in English, of which many refer to the infamous four-letter word
Four-letter word
The phrase four-letter word refers to a set of English-language words written with four letters which are considered profane, including common popular or slang terms for excretory functions, sexual activity and genitalia, and sometimes also certain terms relating to Hell and damnation when used...

s. In American English
American English
American English is a set of dialects of the English language used mostly in the United States. Approximately two-thirds of the world's native speakers of English live in the United States....

, words that are unacceptable on television, such as fuck
"Fuck" is an English word that is generally considered obscene which, in its most literal meaning, refers to the act of sexual intercourse. By extension it may be used to negatively characterize anything that can be dismissed, disdained, defiled, or destroyed."Fuck" can be used as a verb, adverb,...

, may be represented by deformations such as freak — even in children's cartoons. Some examples of rhyming slang may serve the same purpose — to call a person a berk sounds less offensive than to call a person a cunt
Cunt is a vulgarism, primarily referring to the female genitalia, specifically the vulva, and including the cleft of Venus. The earliest citation of this usage in the 1972 Oxford English Dictionary, c 1230, refers to the London street known as Gropecunt Lane...

, though berk is short for Berkeley Hunt
Berkeley Hunt
The Berkeley Hunt is a fox hunt in the west of England. Its country lies in Gloucestershire and South Gloucestershire, between Gloucester and Bristol.-History:...

, which rhymes with cunt.

A bureaucracy is an organization of non-elected officials of a governmental or organization who implement the rules, laws, and functions of their institution, and are occasionally characterized by officialism and red tape.-Weberian bureaucracy:...

 such as the military
A military is an organization authorized by its greater society to use lethal force, usually including use of weapons, in defending its country by combating actual or perceived threats. The military may have additional functions of use to its greater society, such as advancing a political agenda e.g...

 and large corporation
A corporation is created under the laws of a state as a separate legal entity that has privileges and liabilities that are distinct from those of its members. There are many different forms of corporations, most of which are used to conduct business. Early corporations were established by charter...

s frequently spawn euphemisms of a more deliberate nature. Organizations coin doublespeak
Doublespeak is language that deliberately disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words. Doublespeak may take the form of euphemisms , making the truth less unpleasant, without denying its nature. It may also be deployed as intentional ambiguity, or reversal of meaning...

expressions to describe objectionable actions in terms that seem neutral or inoffensive. For example, a term used in the past for contamination by radioactive isotopes
A radionuclide is an atom with an unstable nucleus, which is a nucleus characterized by excess energy available to be imparted either to a newly created radiation particle within the nucleus or to an atomic electron. The radionuclide, in this process, undergoes radioactive decay, and emits gamma...

 was Sunshine units.

Military organizations kill people, sometimes deliberately and sometimes by mistake; in doublespeak, the first may be called neutralizing the target or Employing Kinetic Effects and the second collateral damage
Collateral damage
Collateral damage is damage to people or property that is unintended or incidental to the intended outcome. The phrase is prevalently used as an euphemism for civilian casualties of a military action.-Etymology:...

. Violent destruction of non-state enemies may be referred to as pacification. Two common terms when a soldier
A soldier is a member of the land component of national armed forces; whereas a soldier hired for service in a foreign army would be termed a mercenary...

 is accidentally killed (buys the farm) by their own side are friendly fire
Friendly fire
Friendly fire is inadvertent firing towards one's own or otherwise friendly forces while attempting to engage enemy forces, particularly where this results in injury or death. A death resulting from a negligent discharge is not considered friendly fire...

or blue on blue (BOBbing) — buy the farm has its own interesting history.

Execution is an established euphemism referring to the act of putting a person to death, with or without judicial process. It originally referred to the execution, i.e., the carrying out, of a death warrant
Execution warrant
An execution warrant is a writ which authorizes the execution of a judgment of death on an individual...

, which is an authorization to a sheriff, prison warden, or other official to put a named person to death
Capital punishment
Capital punishment, the death penalty, or execution is the sentence of death upon a person by the state as a punishment for an offence. Crimes that can result in a death penalty are known as capital crimes or capital offences. The term capital originates from the Latin capitalis, literally...

. In legal usage, execution can still refer to the carrying out of other types of orders; for example, in U.S. legal usage, a writ of execution
Writ of execution
A writ of execution is a court order granted in an attempt to satisfy a monetary judgment obtained by a plaintiff. When issuing a writ of execution, a court typically will order a sheriff or other similar official to take possession of property owned by a judgment debtor...

 is a direction to enforce a civil
Civil law (common law)
Civil law, as opposed to criminal law, is the branch of law dealing with disputes between individuals or organizations, in which compensation may be awarded to the victim...

 money judgment
A judgment , in a legal context, is synonymous with the formal decision made by a court following a lawsuit. At the same time the court may also make a range of court orders, such as imposing a sentence upon a guilty defendant in a criminal matter, or providing a remedy for the plaintiff in a civil...

 by seizing property. Likewise, lethal injection
Lethal injection
Lethal injection is the practice of injecting a person with a fatal dose of drugs for the express purpose of causing the immediate death of the subject. The main application for this procedure is capital punishment, but the term may also be applied in a broad sense to euthanasia and suicide...

 itself may be considered a euphemism for putting the convict to death by poison
In the context of biology, poisons are substances that can cause disturbances to organisms, usually by chemical reaction or other activity on the molecular scale, when a sufficient quantity is absorbed by an organism....


Abortion is defined as the termination of pregnancy by the removal or expulsion from the uterus of a fetus or embryo prior to viability. An abortion can occur spontaneously, in which case it is usually called a miscarriage, or it can be purposely induced...

originally meant premature birth
Premature birth
In humans preterm birth refers to the birth of a baby of less than 37 weeks gestational age. The cause for preterm birth is in many situations elusive and unknown; many factors appear to be associated with the development of preterm birth, making the reduction of preterm birth a challenging...

, and came to mean birth before viability. The term "abort" was extended to mean any kind of premature ending, such as aborting the launch of a rocket. Euphemisms have developed around the original meaning. Abortion, by itself, came to mean "induced abortion" or "elective abortion" exclusively. Hence the parallel term spontaneous abortion, an "act of nature", was dropped in favor of the more neutral-sounding miscarriage.

Industrial engineering
Industrial engineering is a branch of engineering dealing with the optimization of complex processes or systems. It is concerned with the development, improvement, implementation and evaluation of integrated systems of people, money, knowledge, information, equipment, energy, materials, analysis...

 unpleasantness such as pollution
Pollution is the introduction of contaminants into a natural environment that causes instability, disorder, harm or discomfort to the ecosystem i.e. physical systems or living organisms. Pollution can take the form of chemical substances or energy, such as noise, heat or light...

 may be toned down to outgassing
Outgassing is the release of a gas that was dissolved, trapped, frozen or absorbed in some material. As an example, research has shown how the concentration of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere has sometimes been linked to ocean outgassing...

or runoff
Surface runoff
Surface runoff is the water flow that occurs when soil is infiltrated to full capacity and excess water from rain, meltwater, or other sources flows over the land. This is a major component of the water cycle. Runoff that occurs on surfaces before reaching a channel is also called a nonpoint source...

— descriptions of physical processes rather than their damaging consequences. Some of this may simply be the application of precise technical terminology
Technical terminology
Technical terminology is the specialized vocabulary of any field, not just technical fields. The same is true of the synonyms technical terms, terms of art, shop talk and words of art, which do not necessarily refer to technology or art...

 in the place of popular usage, but beyond precision, the advantage of technical terminology may be its lack of emotional undertones and the likelihood that the general public (at least initially) will not recognize it for what it really is; the disadvantage being the lack of real-life
Real life
Real life is a term usually used to denote actual human life lived by real people in contrast with the lives of fictional or fantasy characters.-Usage online and in fiction:On the Internet, "real life" refers to life in the real world...

 context. Terms like waste and wastewater are also avoided in favor of terms such as byproduct, recycling, reclaimed water and effluent. In the oil industry
Petroleum industry
The petroleum industry includes the global processes of exploration, extraction, refining, transporting , and marketing petroleum products. The largest volume products of the industry are fuel oil and gasoline...

, oil-based drilling muds were simply renamed organic phase drilling muds, where organic phase is a euphemism for "oil." In medicine, magnetic resonance imaging has replaced nuclear magnetic resonance in order to avoid frightening patients with the word nuclear (even though MRI scanning does not involve the use of harmful ionizing radiation).

Euphemism treadmill

Euphemisms often evolve over time into taboo words themselves, through a process described by W.V.O. Quine, and more recently dubbed the "euphemism treadmill" by Steven Pinker
Steven Pinker
Steven Arthur Pinker is a Canadian-American experimental psychologist, cognitive scientist, linguist and popular science author...

, discussed in his The Blank Slate
The Blank Slate
The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature is a best-selling 2002 book by Steven Pinker arguing against tabula rasa models of the social sciences. Pinker argues that human behavior is substantially shaped by evolutionary psychological adaptations...

(2003) and The Stuff of Thought
The Stuff of Thought
The Stuff of Thought: Language As a Window Into Human Nature is a New York Times best-selling book by Harvard experimental psychologist Steven Pinker published in 2007...

(2007) This is the well-known linguistic process known as pejoration or semantic change
Semantic change
Semantic change, also known as semantic shift or semantic progression describes the evolution of word usage — usually to the point that the modern meaning is radically different from the original usage. In diachronic linguistics, semantic change is a change in one of the meanings of a word...


Words originally intended as euphemisms may lose their euphemistic value, acquiring the negative connotations of their referents. In some cases, they may be used mockingly and become dysphemism
In language, dysphemism, malphemism, and cacophemism refer to the usage of an intentionally harsh, rather than polite, word or expression; roughly the opposite of euphemism...

s. Euphemisms related to disabilities have been prone to this (see below).
  • In his remarks on the ever-changing London slang
    Slang is the use of informal words and expressions that are not considered standard in the speaker's language or dialect but are considered more acceptable when used socially. Slang is often to be found in areas of the lexicon that refer to things considered taboo...

    , made in Down and Out in Paris and London
    Down and Out in Paris and London
    Down and Out in Paris and London is the first full-length work by the English author George Orwell , published in 1933. It is a memoir in two parts on the theme of poverty in the two cities. The first part is a picaresque account of living on the breadline in Paris and the experience of casual...

    , George Orwell
    George Orwell
    Eric Arthur Blair , better known by his pen name George Orwell, was an English author and journalist...

     mentioned both the euphemism treadmill and the dysphemism treadmill. He did not use these now-established terms, but observed and commented on the respective processes as early as in 1933.
  • Where the words lavatory or toilet
    A toilet is a sanitation fixture used primarily for the disposal of human excrement, often found in a small room referred to as a toilet/bathroom/lavatory...

    were deemed inappropriate, they were sometimes replaced with bathroom or water closet, which in turn became simply restroom or W.C. These are also examples of geographic concentration: the term restroom is an Americanism
    American English
    American English is a set of dialects of the English language used mostly in the United States. Approximately two-thirds of the world's native speakers of English live in the United States....

     rarely used outside the United States, while washroom is a Canadian euphemism.
    The term W.C. was previously quite popular in the United Kingdom, but is passing out of favor there, while becoming more popular in France, Germany, the Netherlands and Hungary as the polite term of choice. Ironically, Toilet is itself a euphemism.
  • The word sex, which originally meant simply "male or female", has acquired an additional meaning of "sexual intercourse".

Disability and handicap

Connotations easily change over time. Idiot, imbecile
Imbecile is a term for moderate to severe mental retardation, as well as for a type of criminal. It arises from the Latin word imbecillus, meaning weak, or weak-minded. "Imbecile" was once applied to people with an IQ of 26-50, between "moron" and "idiot" .The term was further refined into mental...

and moron
Moron (psychology)
Moron is a term once used in psychology to denote mild mental retardation. The term was closely tied with the American eugenics movement. Once the term became popularized, it fell out of use by the psychological community, as it was used more commonly as an insult than as a psychological...

were once neutral terms for a developmentally delayed adult with the mental age
Mental age
Mental age is a concept in relation to intelligence, expressed as the age at which a child is performing intellectually. The mental age of the child that is tested is the same as the average age at which normal children achieve a particular score....

 comparable to a toddler
A toddler is a young child, usually defined as being between the ages of one and three. Registered nurse, midwife and author, Robin Barker, states 'Any time from eight months onwards your baby will begin to realise he is a separate person from you...

, preschooler, and primary school child, respectively. As with Gresham's law
Gresham's Law
Gresham's law is an economic principle that states: "When a government compulsorily overvalues one type of money and undervalues another, the undervalued money will leave the country or disappear from circulation into hoards, while the overvalued money will flood into circulation." It is commonly...

, negative connotations tend to crowd out neutral ones, so the phrase mentally retarded
Mental retardation
Mental retardation is a generalized disorder appearing before adulthood, characterized by significantly impaired cognitive functioning and deficits in two or more adaptive behaviors...

 was pressed into service to replace them. Mentally retarded, too, has come to be considered inappropriate by some, because the word retarded came to be commonly used as an insult of a person, thing, or idea. As a result, new terms like mentally challenged, with an intellectual disability, learning difficulties and special needs have widely replaced retarded. It's worth noting that in the UK the term Special can now be heard as an insult in playgrounds, and in the USA many professionals and educators have begun replacing term special with exceptional, as in exceptional learners.

A similar progression occurred with the following terms for persons with physical handicaps being adopted by some people:
lame → crippled → handicapped → disabled → physically challenged → differently abled

Euphemisms can also serve to recirculate words that have passed out of use because of negative connotation. The word lame from above, having faded from the vernacular, was revitalized as a slang word generally meaning "not living up to expectations" or "boring." The connotation of a euphemism can also be subject-specific.

In the early 1960s, Major League Baseball
Major League Baseball
Major League Baseball is the highest level of professional baseball in the United States and Canada, consisting of teams that play in the National League and the American League...

 franchise owner and promoter Bill Veeck
Bill Veeck
William Louis Veeck, Jr. , also known as "Sport Shirt Bill", was a native of Chicago, Illinois, and a franchise owner and promoter in Major League Baseball. He was best known for his publicity stunts to raise attendance. Veeck was at various times the owner of the Cleveland Indians, St. Louis...

, who was missing part of a leg, argued against the then-favored euphemism handicapped, saying he preferred crippled because it was merely descriptive and did not carry connotations of limiting one's capability the way handicapped (and all of its subsequent euphemisms) seemed to do (Veeck as in Wreck, chapter "I'm Not Handicapped, I'm Crippled"). Later, comedian George Carlin
George Carlin
George Denis Patrick Carlin was an American stand-up comedian, social critic, actor and author, who won five Grammy Awards for his comedy albums....

 gave a famous monologue of how he thought euphemisms can undermine appropriate attitudes towards serious issues such as the evolving terms describing the medical problem of the cumulative mental trauma of soldiers in high stress situations:
shell shock
Shell Shock
Shell Shock, also known as 82nd Marines Attack was a 1964 film by B-movie director John Hayes. The film takes place in Italy during World War II, and tells the story of a sergeant with his group of soldiers....

 (World War I) → battle fatigue (World War II) → operational exhaustion (Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

) → posttraumatic stress disorder (Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...


He contended that, as the name of the condition became more complicated and seemingly arcane, sufferers of this condition have been taken less seriously as people with a serious illness, and were given poorer treatment as a result. He also contended that Vietnam veterans would have received the proper care and attention they needed were the condition still called shell shock. In the same routine, he echoed Bill Veeck's opinion that crippled was a perfectly valid term (and noted that early English
History of the English language
English is a West Germanic language that originated from the Anglo-Frisian dialects brought to Britain by Germanic invaders from various parts of what is now northwest Germany and the Netherlands. Initially, Old English was a diverse group of dialects, reflecting the varied origins of the...

 translations of the Bible seemed to have no qualms about saying that Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

 "healed the cripples").

Similarly, spastic
The word spastic is used differently depending on location which has led to some controversy and misunderstanding. Derived via Latin from the Greek spastikos , the word originally referred to a change in muscles affected by the medical condition spasticity, which is seen in spastic diplegia and...

was once a neutral descriptor of a sufferer of muscular hypertonicity in British English
British English
British English, or English , is the broad term used to distinguish the forms of the English language used in the United Kingdom from forms used elsewhere...

, but playground use of spastic (and variants such as spaz and spacker) as an insult led to the term being regarded by some as offensive. While the term was developing into an insult in British English, it was evolving in a radically different fashion in American English
American English
American English is a set of dialects of the English language used mostly in the United States. Approximately two-thirds of the world's native speakers of English live in the United States....

. In the U.S., spastic or spaz became a synonym for clumsiness, whether physical or mental, and nerd
Nerd is a derogatory slang term for an intelligent but socially awkward and obsessive person who spends time on unpopular or obscure pursuits, to the exclusion of more mainstream activities. Nerds are considered to be awkward, shy, and unattractive...

iness, and is very often used in a self-deprecating manner.

The difference between the British and American connotations of spastic was starkly shown in 2006 when golfer Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods
Eldrick Tont "Tiger" Woods is an American professional golfer whose achievements to date rank him among the most successful golfers of all time. Formerly the World No...

 used spaz to describe his putting in that year's Masters
2006 Masters Tournament
The 2006 Masters Tournament was the 70th Masters Tournament, played April 6–9 at Augusta National Golf Club. The course was lengthened significantly before the tournament, making the course play 7,445 yards . Phil Mickelson won his second Masters and second consecutive major, winning by two with a...

. The remark went completely unnoticed in America, but caused a major uproar in the UK.


Profane words and expressions in the English language
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 are commonly taken from three areas: religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

, excretion
Excretion is the process by which waste products of metabolism and other non-useful materials are eliminated from an organism. This is primarily carried out by the lungs, kidneys and skin. This is in contrast with secretion, where the substance may have specific tasks after leaving the cell...

, and sex
In biology, sex is a process of combining and mixing genetic traits, often resulting in the specialization of organisms into a male or female variety . Sexual reproduction involves combining specialized cells to form offspring that inherit traits from both parents...

. While profanities
Profanity is a show of disrespect, or a desecration or debasement of someone or something. Profanity can take the form of words, expressions, gestures, or other social behaviors that are socially constructed or interpreted as insulting, rude, vulgar, obscene, desecrating, or other forms.The...

 themselves have been around for centuries, their limited use in public and by the media
Mass media
Mass media refers collectively to all media technologies which are intended to reach a large audience via mass communication. Broadcast media transmit their information electronically and comprise of television, film and radio, movies, CDs, DVDs and some other gadgets like cameras or video consoles...

 has only slowly become socially acceptable, and there are still many expressions that are out of place in polite conversation. One influence on the current tolerance of such language may be the frequency of its use on prime-time television. The word damn (and most other religious profanity in the English language) has long lost its shock value
Shock value
Shock value is the potential of an action , image, text, or other form of communication to provoke a reaction of disgust, shock, anger, fear, or similar negative emotions.-Shock value as humor:...

, and as a consequence, euphemisms for it (e.g., dang, darn-it) have taken on a very stodgy feeling. Euphemisms for male masturbation such as "bashing the bishop", "petting the penguin", "jacking off", "waxing the dolphin", "slamming the ham", "polishing the knob", "spanking the monkey", "doing the stranger" or "banging one out" are used often among young people to avoid embarrassment in public. Excretory profanity such as piss and shit
Shit is usually considered vulgar and profane in Modern English. As a noun it refers to fecal matter and as a verb it means to defecate or defecate in; in the plural it means diarrhea...

in some cases may be acceptable among informal friends (while they almost are never acceptable in formal relationships or public use); euphemisms such as Number One and Number Two may be preferred for use with children. Most sexual terms and expressions, even technical ones, either remain unacceptable for general use or have undergone radical rehabilitation.


Euphemisms for deities as well as for religious practices and artifacts have been recorded since the earliest writings. Protection of sacred names, rituals, and concepts from the uninitiated has always given rise to euphemisms, whether it be for exclusion of outsiders or the retention of power among the select. Examples from the Egyptians and every other Western religion
Western religion
The term Western religion refers to religions that originated within Western culture, and are thus which historically, culturally, and theologically distinct from the Eastern religions...


Euphemisms for God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

 and Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

, such as gosh and gee, are used by Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

s to avoid taking the name of God
Names of God
Names of God, or Holy Names, describe a form of addressing God present in liturgy or prayer of various world religions. Prayer involving the Holy Name or the Name of God has become established as common spiritual practice in both Western and Eastern spiritual practices...

 in a vain oath, which would violate one of the Ten Commandments
Ten Commandments
The Ten Commandments, also known as the Decalogue , are a set of biblical principles relating to ethics and worship, which play a fundamental role in Judaism and most forms of Christianity. They include instructions to worship only God and to keep the Sabbath, and prohibitions against idolatry,...

. (Exodus 20)

Jews consider the tetragrammaton
The term Tetragrammaton refers to the name of the God of Israel YHWH used in the Hebrew Bible.-Hebrew Bible:...

—YHWH, the four-letter name of God as written in the Torah
Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five books of the bible—Genesis , Exodus , Leviticus , Numbers and Deuteronomy Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five...

—to be of such great holiness that it was never to be pronounced as spelled, except in the Temple by the High Priest on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the year. [Aryeh Kaplan, Meditation and Kabballa p. 134] (The pronunciation used in the Temple has been forgotten.) At all other times, when praying or reading from scripture, Jews say the word Adonai ("my Lords") in place of the letters. However, outside of prayer and scriptural contexts, traditional Jews will not pronounce the name Adonai, but replace it, typically with the word HaShem, which literally means, "The Name". The other name of God frequently used in the bible, Elohim (אלוהים)—"Powers"—is also not pronounced as written except in formal, religious use; in other contexts, devout Jews typically change one of its letters to Elokim (אלוקים).
Other names of God used in Jewish speech and writing, such as HaMakom (המקום)—"The Place"—or 'HaKadosh Baruch Hu' (הקדוש ברוך הוא) "The Holy One, Blessed is he" can be pronounced in any context. Whether they originated as euphemisms is not clear, but they are used as such, although they are also used in formal prayer.
The respect Jews show for the name of God has created, and continues to create, written euphemisms in English. That is, Orthodox Jews usually will not write out the word "God", but instead spell it "G-d." Recently, some have begun making a similar change to the spelling of the euphemism haShem (discussed above). It is written "haSh-m."

Euphemisms for hell
In many religious traditions, a hell is a place of suffering and punishment in the afterlife. Religions with a linear divine history often depict hells as endless. Religions with a cyclic history often depict a hell as an intermediary period between incarnations...

, damnation, and the devil
The Devil is believed in many religions and cultures to be a powerful, supernatural entity that is the personification of evil and the enemy of God and humankind. The nature of the role varies greatly...

, on the other hand, are often used to avoid invoking the power or drawing the attention of the adversary. The most famous in the latter category is the expression what the dickens and its variants, which does not refer to the famed British writer
Charles Dickens
Charles John Huffam Dickens was an English novelist, generally considered the greatest of the Victorian period. Dickens enjoyed a wider popularity and fame than had any previous author during his lifetime, and he remains popular, having been responsible for some of English literature's most iconic...

 but instead was a popular euphemism for Satan
Satan , "the opposer", is the title of various entities, both human and divine, who challenge the faith of humans in the Hebrew Bible...

 in its time. In questions, "what the hell" may be replaced by "what the heck", and in directive speech "get the hell out" is sometimes replaced by "get the heck out".

In times past, profanity relating to Jesus' body were sometimes used, such as "God's Wounds!" By the time of Chaucer, this was reduced to "'swounds"—as spoken by characters such as the Miller—and since then has worked its way into common language as "zounds," a term now considered too stodgy to be any kind of curse.


The abbreviation BS, or the word bull, often replaces the word bullshit
Bullshit is a common English expletive which may be shortened to the euphemism bull or the initialism B.S. In British English, "bollocks" is a comparable expletive, although bullshit is commonly used in British English...

in polite society. (The term bullshit itself generally means lies or nonsense, and not the literal "shit of a bull", making it a dysphemism
In language, dysphemism, malphemism, and cacophemism refer to the usage of an intentionally harsh, rather than polite, word or expression; roughly the opposite of euphemism...


What is currently known as a toilet
A toilet is a sanitation fixture used primarily for the disposal of human excrement, often found in a small room referred to as a toilet/bathroom/lavatory...

, has been known by a number of previous euphemisms "..The Honest Jakes or Privy has graduated via Offices to the final horror of Toilet..." There are any number of lengthier periphrases
In linguistics, periphrasis is a device by which a grammatical category or grammatical relationship is expressed by a free morpheme , instead of being shown by inflection or derivation...

 for excretion used to excuse oneself from company, such as to powder one's nose, to see a man about a dog (or horse), etc. In the Bible, to cover one's feet referred to excretion.


The Latin term pudendum and the Greek term αιδοίον (aidoion) for the genitals literally mean "shameful thing". Groin, crotch, and loins refer to a larger region of the body, but are euphemistic when used to refer to the genitals. The word masturbate is derived from Latin, the word manus meaning hand and the word sturbare meaning to defile. In pornographic stories, the words rosebud and starfish are often used as euphemisms for anus, generally in the context of anal sex
Anal sex
Anal sex is the sex act in which the penis is inserted into the anus of a sexual partner. The term can also include other sexual acts involving the anus, including pegging, anilingus , fingering, and object insertion.Common misconception describes anal sex as practiced almost exclusively by gay men...


Sexual intercourse was once a euphemism derived from the more general term intercourse by itself, which simply meant "meeting" but now is normally used as a synonym for the longer phrase, thus making the town of Intercourse, Pennsylvania
Intercourse, Pennsylvania
Intercourse, Pennsylvania is an unincorporated village in Leacock Township, Lancaster County in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania, ten miles east of Lancaster on PA 340. As with the nearby towns of Bird-in-Hand, Blue Ball, and Paradise, Intercourse is a popular site for tourists because of its...

, a subject of jokes in modern usage.

The "baseball metaphors for sex
Baseball metaphors for sex
In the culture of American adolescents, the game of baseball is often used as a euphemistic metaphor for the degree of sexual intimacy achieved in intimate encounters or relationships...

" are perhaps the most famous and widely-used set of polite euphemisms for sex and relationship behavior in the U.S. The metaphors encompass terms like "hitting it off" for a good start to relationship, "Striking out" for being unlucky with a love interest, and "running the bases" for progressing sexually in a relationship. The "bases" themselves, from first to third, stand for various levels of sexual activity from French kissing to "petting", itself a euphemism for manual genital stimulation, all of which is short of "scoring" or "coming home", sexual intercourse. "Hitting a home run" describes sex during the first date, "batting both ways" (also "switch-hitting") or "batting for the other team" describes bisexuality
Bisexuality is sexual behavior or an orientation involving physical or romantic attraction to both males and females, especially with regard to men and women. It is one of the three main classifications of sexual orientation, along with a heterosexual and a homosexual orientation, all a part of the...

 or homosexuality
Homosexuality is romantic or sexual attraction or behavior between members of the same sex or gender. As a sexual orientation, homosexuality refers to "an enduring pattern of or disposition to experience sexual, affectional, or romantic attractions" primarily or exclusively to people of the same...

 respectively, and "stealing bases" refers to initiating new levels of sexual contact without invitation. Baseball-related euphemisms also abound for the "equipment"; "Bat and balls" are a common reference to the male genitalia
Sex organ
A sex organ, or primary sexual characteristic, as narrowly defined, is any of the anatomical parts of the body which are involved in sexual reproduction and constitute the reproductive system in a complex organism; flowers are the reproductive organs of flowering plants, cones are the reproductive...

, while "glove" or "mitt" can refer to the female anatomy. Among gay men, "pitcher
In baseball, the pitcher is the player who throwsthe baseball from the pitcher's mound toward the catcher to begin each play, with the goal of retiring a batter, who attempts to either make contact with the pitched ball or draw a walk. In the numbering system used to record defensive plays, the...

" is sometimes used to mean a "top", while "catcher
Catcher is a position for a baseball or softball player. When a batter takes his turn to hit, the catcher crouches behind home plate, in front of the umpire, and receives the ball from the pitcher. This is a catcher's primary duty, but he is also called upon to master many other skills in order to...

" means a "bottom".

There are many euphemisms for birth control
Birth control
Birth control is an umbrella term for several techniques and methods used to prevent fertilization or to interrupt pregnancy at various stages. Birth control techniques and methods include contraception , contragestion and abortion...

 devices, sometimes even propagated by the manufacturers: Condoms are known as "rubbers", "sheaths", "love gloves", "diving suits", "raincoats", "French letters", "Johnnies" (in Ireland and to a lesser degree Britain) etc.

Euphemisms are also common in reference to sexual orientation
Sexual orientation
Sexual orientation describes a pattern of emotional, romantic, or sexual attractions to the opposite sex, the same sex, both, or neither, and the genders that accompany them. By the convention of organized researchers, these attractions are subsumed under heterosexuality, homosexuality,...

s and lifestyles. For example in the movie Closer
Closer (film)
Closer is a 2004 romantic drama film written by Patrick Marber, based on his award-winning 1997 play of the same name. It was produced and directed by Mike Nichols and stars Natalie Portman, Julia Roberts, Jude Law and Clive Owen...

, the character played by Jude Law
Jude Law
David Jude Heyworth Law , known professionally as Jude Law, is an English actor, film producer and director.He began acting with the National Youth Music Theatre in 1987, and had his first television role in 1989...

 uses the euphemism "He valued his privacy" for being gay. Another example is being a 'lover of musical theatre'.

As an aside, the use of euphemisms for sexual activity has grown under the pressure of recent rulings by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission
Federal Communications Commission
The Federal Communications Commission is an independent agency of the United States government, created, Congressional statute , and with the majority of its commissioners appointed by the current President. The FCC works towards six goals in the areas of broadband, competition, the spectrum, the...

 (FCC) regarding what constitutes "decent" on-air broadcast
Broadcast or Broadcasting may refer to:* Broadcasting, the transmission of audio and video signals* Broadcast, an individual television program or radio program* Broadcast , an English electronic music band...

 speech. The FCC included many well known euphemisms in its lists of banned terms but indicated that even new and unknown coinages might be considered indecent once it became clear what they referenced. George Carlin's "Seven Words You Can't Say On TV" evolved into the "Incomplete List of Impolite Words", available in text and audio form, and contains hundreds of euphemisms and dysphemisms to genitalia, the act of having sex, various forms of sex, sexual orientations, etc. that have all become too pejorative for polite conversation, including such notables as "getting your pole varnished" and "eating the tuna taco".

Profanity itself

In the Spanish language
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

, the word maldición, literally meaning "a curse" or an evil spell, is occasionally used as an interjection of lament or anger, but not necessarily to replace any of several Spanish profanities that would otherwise be used in that same context. The same is true in Italian
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

 with the word maledizione and in Portuguese
Portuguese language
Portuguese is a Romance language that arose in the medieval Kingdom of Galicia, nowadays Galicia and Northern Portugal. The southern part of the Kingdom of Galicia became independent as the County of Portugal in 1095...

 with the word maldição.

In Greek, the word κατάρα "curse" is found, although βρισιά, from ύβρις (hubris) is more commonly used, and in English, an exclamation that is used in a similar style is curses, although it is these days less common. The stereotyped "Perils of Pauline" silent film
Silent film
A silent film is a film with no synchronized recorded sound, especially with no spoken dialogue. In silent films for entertainment the dialogue is transmitted through muted gestures, pantomime and title cards...

 might have the villain tying his victim to a railroad track. When the hero rescues the heroine, the card might say, "Curses! Foiled again!" in place of whatever cursing the character presumably uttered.

The English language phrase "Pardon my French
Pardon my French
"Pardon my French" or "Excuse my French" is a common English language phrase ostensibly disguising profanity as French. The phrase is uttered in an attempt to excuse the user of profanity or curses in the presence of those offended by it under the pretense of the words being part of a foreign...

" is also sometimes used as a euphemism for profanity.

In Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Miller Hemingway was an American author and journalist. His economic and understated style had a strong influence on 20th-century fiction, while his life of adventure and his public image influenced later generations. Hemingway produced most of his work between the mid-1920s and the...

's novel For Whom the Bell Tolls
For Whom the Bell Tolls
For Whom the Bell Tolls is a novel by Ernest Hemingway published in 1940. It tells the story of Robert Jordan, a young American in the International Brigades attached to a republican guerrilla unit during the Spanish Civil War. As an expert in the use of explosives, he is assigned to blow up a...

, swear words are replaced by the words "unprintable" and "obscenity", even though the characters are actually speaking Spanish that has been translated into English for the reader (in Spanish, foul language is used freely even when its equivalent is censored in English). These replacements were not performed at the publisher's behest, but instead by Hemingway's choice.

In Wes Anderson's film Fantastic Mr. Fox
Fantastic Mr. Fox (film)
Fantastic Mr. Fox is a 2009 American stop-motion animated film based on the Roald Dahl children's novel of the same name. This story is about a fox who steals food each night from three mean and wealthy farmers. The farmers are fed up with Mr Fox's theft and try to kill him, so they dig their way...

, the replacement of swear words by the word "cuss" became a humorous motif throughout the film.

In The Nickelodeon sitcom's iCarly
iCarly is an American sitcom that focuses on a girl named Carly Shay who creates her own web show called iCarly with her best friends Sam and Freddie. The series was created by Dan Schneider, who also serves as executive producer. It stars Miranda Cosgrove as Carly, Jennette McCurdy as Sam, Nathan...

and Victorious
Victorious is an American sitcom created by Dan Schneider for Nickelodeon. The series revolves around aspiring singer Tori Vega , a teenager who attends a performing arts high school called Hollywood Arts High School, after taking her older sister Trina's place in a showcase while getting into...

people and characters prefer to use a term called wazz as substitute for wizz and piss as Reference to first restroom business.

Death and murder

The English language contains numerous euphemisms related to dying, death, burial
Burial is the act of placing a person or object into the ground. This is accomplished by excavating a pit or trench, placing an object in it, and covering it over.-History:...

, and the people and places that deal with death. The practice of using euphemisms for death is likely to have originated with the magical
Magical thinking
Magical thinking is causal reasoning that looks for correlation between acts or utterances and certain events. In religion, folk religion, and superstition, the correlation posited is between religious ritual, such as prayer, sacrifice, or the observance of a taboo, and an expected benefit or...

 belief that to speak the word "death" was to invite death; where to "draw Death's attention" is the ultimate bad fortune — a common theory holds that death is a taboo subject in most English-speaking cultures for precisely this reason. It may be said that one is not dying, but fading quickly because the end is near. People who have died are referred to as having passed away or passed or departed. Kick the bucket
Kick the bucket
To kick the bucket is an English idiom that is defined as "to die" in the Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue . It is considered a euphemistic, informal, or slang term. Its origin remains unclear, though there have been several theories.-Origin theories:...

 seems innocuous until one considers an explanation that has been proposed for the idiom: that a suicidal hanging
Hanging is the lethal suspension of a person by a ligature. The Oxford English Dictionary states that hanging in this sense is "specifically to put to death by suspension by the neck", though it formerly also referred to crucifixion and death by impalement in which the body would remain...

 victim must kick the bucket out from under his own feet during his suicide
Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one's own death. Suicide is often committed out of despair or attributed to some underlying mental disorder, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, alcoholism, or drug abuse...

. Deceased is a euphemism for "dead", and sometimes the deceased is said to have gone to a better place, but this is used primarily among the religious with a concept of Heaven
Heaven, the Heavens or Seven Heavens, is a common religious cosmological or metaphysical term for the physical or transcendent place from which heavenly beings originate, are enthroned or inhabit...

. Was taken to Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

implies salvation specifically for Christians
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

, but met his Maker may imply some judgment, content implied or unknown, by God. In the Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

, especially in the books of Kings and Chronicles, a deceased king is said to have "slept [or rested] with his fathers" if he received a proper burial.

Some Christians often use phrases such as gone to be with the Lord or called to higher service (this latter expression being particularly prevalent in the Salvation Army
Salvation Army
The Salvation Army is a Protestant Christian church known for its thrift stores and charity work. It is an international movement that currently works in over a hundred countries....

 along with "promoted to glory") or "graduated" to express their belief that physical death is not the end, but the beginning of the fuller realization of redemption.

Orthodox Christians often use the euphemism fallen asleep or fallen asleep in the Lord, which reflects Orthodox beliefs concerning death and resurrection. Greeks in particular are apt to refer to the deceased as "the blessed", "the forgiven", or "the absolved" ones, in the belief that the dead person will be counted among the faithful at the Last Judgement.

The dead body entices many euphemisms, some polite and some profane, as well as dysphemism
In language, dysphemism, malphemism, and cacophemism refer to the usage of an intentionally harsh, rather than polite, word or expression; roughly the opposite of euphemism...

s such as worm food, dead meat, or simply a stiff. Modern rhyming slang contains the expression brown bread. The corpse was once referred to as the shroud (or house or tenement) of clay, and modern funerary workers use terms such as the loved one
The Loved One
The Loved One: An Anglo-American Tragedy is a short satirical novel by British novelist Evelyn Waugh about the funeral business in Los Angeles, the British expatriate community in Hollywood, and the film industry.-Conception:...

(title of a novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

 about Hollywood undertakers
Funeral director
A funeral director , also known as a mortician or undertaker, is a professional involved in the business of funeral rites. These tasks often entail the embalming and burial or cremation of the dead, as well as the planning and arrangement of the actual funeral ceremony...

 by Evelyn Waugh
Evelyn Waugh
Arthur Evelyn St. John Waugh , known as Evelyn Waugh, was an English writer of novels, travel books and biographies. He was also a prolific journalist and reviewer...

) or the dear departed. (They themselves have given up the euphemism funeral director for grief therapist, and hold arrangement conferences with relatives.) Among themselves, mortuary technicians often refer to the corpse as the client. A recently dead person may be referred to as "the late John Doe
John Doe
The name "John Doe" is used as a placeholder name in a legal action, case or discussion for a male party, whose true identity is unknown or must be withheld for legal reasons. The name is also used to refer to a male corpse or hospital patient whose identity is unknown...

". The term cemetery for "graveyard" is a borrowing from Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

, where it was a euphemism, literally meaning 'sleeping place'. The term undertaker (for the person responsible for the preparation of a body for burial) is so well-established that some people do not recognize it as a euphemism.

Someone who has died is said to have passed on, checked out, bit the big one, kicked the bucket, keeled over, bit the dust, popped their clogs, pegged it, carked it, was snuffed out, turned their toes up, hopped the twig, bought the farm, got zapped, wrote their epitaph
An epitaph is a short text honoring a deceased person, strictly speaking that is inscribed on their tombstone or plaque, but also used figuratively. Some are specified by the dead person beforehand, others chosen by those responsible for the burial...

, cashed in their chips, fell off their perch, croaked, gave up the ghost (originally a more respectful term, cf. the death of Jesus as translated in the King James Version of the Bible
King James Version of the Bible
The Authorized Version, commonly known as the King James Version, King James Bible or KJV, is an English translation of the Christian Bible by the Church of England begun in 1604 and completed in 1611...

 Mark 15:37), gone south, gone west, gone to California, shuffled off this mortal coil (from William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

's Hamlet
The Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, or more simply Hamlet, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1599 and 1601...

), run down the curtain and joined the Choir Invisible, or assumed room temperature (actually a dysphemism in use among mortuary technicians). When buried, they may be said to be pushing up daisies, sleeping the big sleep, taking a dirt nap, gone into the fertilizing business, checking out the grass from underneath or six feet under. There are hundreds of such expressions in use. (Old Burma-Shave
Burma-Shave was an American brand of brushless shaving cream, famous for its advertising gimmick of posting humorous rhyming poems on small, sequential, highway-billboard signs.-History:...

 jingle: "If daisies are your favorite flower, keep pushin’ up those miles per hour!") In Edwin Muir's 'The Horses' a euphemism is used to show the elimination of the human race 'The seven days war that put the world to sleep.'

The "Dead Parrot
Dead Parrot
The "Dead Parrot Sketch", alternatively and originally known as the "Pet Shop Sketch" or "Parrot Sketch", is a popular sketch from Monty Python's Flying Circus, and one of the most famous in the history of British television comedy...

" sketch from Monty Python's Flying Circus
Monty Python's Flying Circus
Monty Python’s Flying Circus is a BBC TV sketch comedy series. The shows were composed of surreality, risqué or innuendo-laden humour, sight gags and observational sketches without punchlines...

contains an extensive list of euphemisms for death, including many cited above, referring to the deceased parrot that the character played by John Cleese
John Cleese
John Marwood Cleese is an English actor, comedian, writer, and film producer. He achieved success at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and as a scriptwriter and performer on The Frost Report...

 had purchased. The popularity of the sketch has itself increased the popularity of some of these euphemisms — indeed, it has introduced another euphemism for death, "pining for the fjords" (since it was a Norwegian parrot) — although in the sketch that phrase was used by the shop owner to assert that the parrot was not dead, but was merely quiet and contemplative.

Euthanasia refers to the practice of intentionally ending a life in order to relieve pain and suffering....

 also attracts euphemisms. One may put one out of one's misery, put one to sleep, or have one put down, the latter two phrases being used primarily with dogs, cats, and horses who are being or have been euthanized
Animal euthanasia
Animal euthanasia is the act of putting to death painlessly or allowing to die, as by withholding extreme medical measures, an animal suffering from an incurable, especially a painful, disease or condition. Euthanasia methods are designed to cause minimal pain and distress...

 by a veterinarian
A veterinary physician, colloquially called a vet, shortened from veterinarian or veterinary surgeon , is a professional who treats disease, disorder and injury in animals....

. (These terms are not usually applied to humans, because both medical ethics
Medical ethics
Medical ethics is a system of moral principles that apply values and judgments to the practice of medicine. As a scholarly discipline, medical ethics encompasses its practical application in clinical settings as well as work on its history, philosophy, theology, and sociology.-History:Historically,...

 and law deprecate euthanasia.) In fact, Dr. Bernard Nathanson
Bernard Nathanson
Bernard N. Nathanson was an American medical doctor from New York who helped to found the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, but later became a pro-life activist.-Early life and education:...

 has pointed out that the word "euthanasia" itself is a euphemism, being Greek for "good death".

Some euphemisms for killing are neither respectful nor playful, but instead clinical and detached, including terminate, wet work, to take care of one, to do them in, to off, or to take them out. To cut loose or open up on someone or something means "to shoot at with every available weapon". Gangland
Organized crime
Organized crime or criminal organizations are transnational, national, or local groupings of highly centralized enterprises run by criminals for the purpose of engaging in illegal activity, most commonly for monetary profit. Some criminal organizations, such as terrorist organizations, are...

 euphemisms for murder include ventilate, whack, rub out, cut down, hit, take him for a ride, string him up, cut down to size, or "put him in cement boots", "sleep with the fishes" or "put him in a concrete overcoat", the latter three implying disposal in deep water, if then alive by drowning
Drowning is death from asphyxia due to suffocation caused by water entering the lungs and preventing the absorption of oxygen leading to cerebral hypoxia....

; the arrangement for a killing may be a simple "contract", with the victim referred to as the "client", which suggests a normal transaction of business.

One of the most infamous euphemisms in history was the German term Endlösung, frequently translated in English as "Final Solution
Final Solution
The Final Solution was Nazi Germany's plan and execution of the systematic genocide of European Jews during World War II, resulting in the most deadly phase of the Holocaust...

", a systematic plan for genocide
Genocide is defined as "the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group", though what constitutes enough of a "part" to qualify as genocide has been subject to much debate by legal scholars...

 of the Jews
The Jews , also known as the Jewish people, are a nation and ethnoreligious group originating in the Israelites or Hebrews of the Ancient Near East. The Jewish ethnicity, nationality, and religion are strongly interrelated, as Judaism is the traditional faith of the Jewish nation...


Some dysphemisms, especially for death are euphemisms or dysphemisms for other unpleasant events and thus are unpleasant in their literal meaning, used to generalize a bad event. "Having your ass handed to you", "left for the rats", "toasted", "roasted", "burned", "pounded", "bent over the barrel", "screwed over" or other terms commonly describe death or the state of imminent death, but also are common in describing defeat of any kind such as a humiliating loss in a sport or video game
Computer and video games
A video game is an electronic game that involves human interaction with a user interface to generate visual feedback on a video device. The word video in video game traditionally referred to a raster display device, but following popularization of the term "video game", it now implies any type of...

, being unfairly treated or cast aside in business affairs, being badly beaten in a fight, and similar.

Such an execution device as the electric chair
Electric chair
Execution by electrocution, usually performed using an electric chair, is an execution method originating in the United States in which the condemned person is strapped to a specially built wooden chair and electrocuted through electrodes placed on the body...

 has been known as "Old Sparky" or "Yellow Mama", and the device that delivers lethal chemicals to the condemned in a lethal injection
Lethal injection
Lethal injection is the practice of injecting a person with a fatal dose of drugs for the express purpose of causing the immediate death of the subject. The main application for this procedure is capital punishment, but the term may also be applied in a broad sense to euthanasia and suicide...

 is reduced to "the needle".

To terminate with prejudice generally means to end one's employment without possibility of rehire (as opposed to lay off, where the person can expect rehire if business picks up), but the related term to terminate with extreme prejudice
Terminate with extreme prejudice
In military and other covert operations, terminate with extreme prejudice is a euphemism for execution . In a military intelligence context, it is generally understood as an order to assassinate...

now usually means to kill. The adjective extreme may occasionally be omitted. In a famous line from the movie Apocalypse Now
Apocalypse Now
Apocalypse Now is a 1979 American war film set during the Vietnam War, produced and directed by Francis Ford Coppola. The central character is US Army special operations officer Captain Benjamin L. Willard , of MACV-SOG, an assassin sent to kill the renegade and presumed insane Special Forces...

, Captain Willard is told to terminate Colonel Kurtz's commission "with extreme prejudice". An acronym, TWEP has been coined from this phrase, which can be used as a verb: "He was TWEPed/TWEPped."

In a passage near the beginning of The Twelve Chairs
The Twelve Chairs
The Twelve Chairs is a classic satirical novel by the Soviet authors Ilf and Petrov, released in 1928. Its main character Ostap Bender reappears in the book's sequel The Little Golden Calf.-Plot:...

, Bezenchuk, an undertaker, astonishes Vorobyaninov with his classification of people by the euphemisms used to speak of their deaths.

The game Dungeon Siege
Dungeon Siege
Dungeon Siege is a computer role-playing game developed by Gas Powered Games and published by Microsoft Game Studios. Chris Taylor showed Dungeon Siege years in production for the first time at E3 2000...

contains many euphemisms for death. Likewise the videogame Secret of Mana
Secret of Mana
Secret of Mana is an action role-playing game for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System developed and published by Square in 1993. The game was re-released for the Wii's Virtual Console in 2008, and was ported to Japanese mobile phones in 2009...

uses the phrase sees the reaper to mean death.

A scene in the film Patch Adams
Patch Adams (film)
Patch Adams is a 1998 comedy-drama film starring Robin Williams. Directed by Tom Shadyac, it is based on the life story of Dr. Hunter "Patch" Adams and the book Gesundheit: Good Health is a Laughing Matter by Adams and Maureen Mylander. The film is generally considered a box-office success,...

features Patch (Robin Williams
Robin Williams
Robin McLaurin Williams is an American actor and comedian. Rising to fame with his role as the alien Mork in the TV series Mork and Mindy, and later stand-up comedy work, Williams has performed in many feature films since 1980. He won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance...

) dressed in an angel costume, reading out various synonyms and euphemisms for the phrase "to die" to a man dying of cancer. This evolves into a contest between the two men to see who can come up with more, and better, euphemisms, ending when Patch comes up with "and if we bury you ass up, we'll have a place to park my bike."


The last time the United States Congress passed a bill with the title "Declaration of War" was in 1942, when the U.S. declared war
War is a state of organized, armed, and often prolonged conflict carried on between states, nations, or other parties typified by extreme aggression, social disruption, and usually high mortality. War should be understood as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political...

 on Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

. Since then, various euphemisms have been employed:
Euphemism Usage
Pacification may refer to:The restoration of peace through a declaration or peace treaty:*Pacification of Ghent, an alliance of several provinces of the Netherlands signed on November 8, 1576...

While sometimes used to refer to activities designed to make life more comfortable for civilians, the term can also be used to imply intervention by coercive force, including warfare. Examples: Pacification of Algeria
Pacification of Algeria
Following the conquest of the Regency of Algiers, the Pacification of Algeria consists of a series of military operations which aimed to put an end to various tribal rebellions, razzias and massacres of French settlers, which were sporadically held in the Algerian countryside...

, Pacification of the Araucanía, Pacification operations in German-occupied Poland
Pacification operations in German-occupied Poland
The pacification operations in German-occupied Poland was the use of military force and punitive measures conducted during World War II by Nazi Germany with the goal of suppressing any Polish resistance....

, and the Pacification of Tonkin
Pacification of Tonkin
The Pacification of Tonkin was a slow, frustrating but ultimately successful military and political campaign undertaken by the French Empire in the northern portion of Tonkin to re-establish order in the wake of the Sino-French War , to entrench a French protectorate in Tonkin, and to suppress...

police action
Police action
Police action in military/security studies and international relations is a euphemism for a military action undertaken without a formal declaration of war.Since World War II, formal declarations of war have been rare...

In the early days of the Korean War, President Harry S. Truman referred to the United States response to the North Korean invasion as a police action. Similarly, the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

 is also referred to as a "police action" or "security action".
humanitarian intervention
Humanitarian intervention
Humanitarian intervention "refers to a state using military force against another state when the chief publicly declared aim of that military action is ending human-rights violations being perpetrated by the state against which it is directed."...

The Clinton Doctrine
Clinton Doctrine
The Clinton Doctrine is not a clear statement in the way that many other United States Presidential doctrines were. However, in a February 26, 1999, speech, President Bill Clinton said the following, which was generally considered to summarize the Clinton Doctrine:Clinton later made statements that...

 of military interventionism
Interventionism (politics)
Interventionism is a term for a policy of non-defensive activity undertaken by a nation-state, or other geo-political jurisdiction of a lesser or greater nature, to manipulate an economy or society...

 agues for involvement in warfare on humanitarian grounds. The Kosovo War
Kosovo War
The term Kosovo War or Kosovo conflict was two sequential, and at times parallel, armed conflicts in Kosovo province, then part of FR Yugoslav Republic of Serbia; from early 1998 to 1999, there was an armed conflict initiated by the ethnic Albanian "Kosovo Liberation Army" , who sought independence...

 is believed to be the first so-called humanitarian war.
peace process
Peace process
Peace process may refer to:* in general:** Peacebuilding** Conflict resolution* specifically:** Northern Ireland peace process, efforts from c.1993 to end "the Troubles"...

The continual (on-and-off) war since 1948 between Israelis and Palestinians.
limited kinetic action After the 60-day War Powers Act deadline for congressional authorization to remain involved in the 2011 military intervention in Libya
2011 military intervention in Libya
On 19 March 2011, a multi-state coalition began a military intervention in Libya to implement United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, which was taken in response to events during the 2011 Libyan civil war...

 passed, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates
Robert Gates
Dr. Robert Michael Gates is a retired civil servant and university president who served as the 22nd United States Secretary of Defense from 2006 to 2011. Prior to this, Gates served for 26 years in the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Council, and under President George H. W....

 refused to call the operation a war
War is a state of organized, armed, and often prolonged conflict carried on between states, nations, or other parties typified by extreme aggression, social disruption, and usually high mortality. War should be understood as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political...

; instead describing it as a limited kinetic action.

In job titles

Euphemisms are common in job titles; some jobs have complicated titles that make them sound more impressive than the common names would imply, such as CPA in place of car parking attendant. Many of these euphemisms may include words such as engineer, although in fact the people who do the job are not accredited in engineering. Extreme cases, such as sanitation engineer for janitor, or 'transparent-wall maintenance officer' for window cleaner, are cited humorously more often than they are used seriously. Less extreme cases, such as custodian for janitor or administrative assistant for secretary, are considered more terms of respect than euphemisms. Where the work itself is seen as distasteful, a euphemism may be used, for example "rodent officer" for a rat-catcher
Rat-catching is the occupation of catching rats as a form of pest control. In developed countries the role may be merged with, or the title inflated to, Pest Control Operative or Pest Technician....

, or "cemetery operative" for a gravedigger. From the inter-force rivalry of the US military comes "High-Velocity Projectile Interceptor" as a description of the mission of an infantry soldier, usually spoken by someone of a non-infantry branch like the Air Force.


Doublespeak, often incorrectly assumed to originate from George Orwell's novel 1984 (erroneously combining Orwell's "newspeak
Newspeak is a fictional language in George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. In the novel, it refers to the deliberately impoverished language promoted by the state. Orwell included an essay about it in the form of an appendix in which the basic principles of the language are explained...

" and "doublethink
Doublethink, a word coined by George Orwell in the novel 1984, describes the act of simultaneously accepting two mutually contradictory beliefs as correct, often in distinct social contexts. It is related to, but distinct from, hypocrisy and neutrality. Its opposite is cognitive dissonance, where...

"), is language deliberately constructed to disguise or distort its actual meaning
Meaning (linguistics)
In linguistics, meaning is what is expressed by the writer or speaker, and what is conveyed to the reader or listener, provided that they talk about the same thing . In other words if the object and the name of the object and the concepts in their head are the same...

, often resulting in a communication bypass. What distinguishes doublespeak from other euphemisms is its deliberate usage. Doublespeak may be in the form of bald euphemisms such as "downsizing" or "rightsizing" for "firing of many employees"; or deliberately ambiguous phrases such as "wet work" for "assassination" and "take out" for "destroy".

Common examples

Other common euphemisms include:
Euphemisms Meaning
light in the loafers, confirmed bachelor, rides the bus male homosexuality
Homosexuality is romantic or sexual attraction or behavior between members of the same sex or gender. As a sexual orientation, homosexuality refers to "an enduring pattern of or disposition to experience sexual, affectional, or romantic attractions" primarily or exclusively to people of the same...

abattoir slaughterhouse
A slaughterhouse or abattoir is a facility where animals are killed for consumption as food products.Approximately 45-50% of the animal can be turned into edible products...

acting like rabbits, making love to, getting it on, screwing, doing it, making the beast with two backs, sleeping with having sex with
adult entertainment, adult material pornography
Pornography or porn is the explicit portrayal of sexual subject matter for the purposes of sexual arousal and erotic satisfaction.Pornography may use any of a variety of media, ranging from books, magazines, postcards, photos, sculpture, drawing, painting, animation, sound recording, film, video,...

bathroom tissue, t.p., bath tissue toilet paper
Toilet paper
Toilet paper is a soft paper product used to maintain personal hygiene after human defecation or urination. However, it can also be used for other purposes such as blowing one's nose when one has a cold or absorbing common spills around the house, although paper towels are more used for the latter...

(usually used by toilet paper manufacturers)
big, curvy, fluffy, thick-boned, full-figured, heavy-set overweight, fat, obese
Obesity is a medical condition in which excess body fat has accumulated to the extent that it may have an adverse effect on health, leading to reduced life expectancy and/or increased health problems...

chemical dependency drug addiction (though these technically describe distinct conditions)
co-morbidity simultaneous existence of related mental and physical health issues (when morbidity is used as a medical term for illness), although in the regular medical use of this term it simply means the presence of one or more mental or physical diseases apart from the primary one and as such is not a euphemism.
correctional facility prison
A prison is a place in which people are physically confined and, usually, deprived of a range of personal freedoms. Imprisonment or incarceration is a legal penalty that may be imposed by the state for the commission of a crime...

custodian, caretaker janitor
A janitor or custodian is a professional who takes care of buildings, such as hospitals and schools. Janitors are responsible primarily for cleaning, and often some maintenance and security...

(Also originally a euphemism — in Latin, it means doorman. In the British Secret Service
Secret Intelligence Service
The Secret Intelligence Service is responsible for supplying the British Government with foreign intelligence. Alongside the internal Security Service , the Government Communications Headquarters and the Defence Intelligence , it operates under the formal direction of the Joint Intelligence...

, it may still carry the ancient meaning. It does in the novels of John le Carré
John le Carré
David John Moore Cornwell , who writes under the name John le Carré, is an author of espionage novels. During the 1950s and the 1960s, Cornwell worked for MI5 and MI6, and began writing novels under the pseudonym "John le Carré"...

economically depressed neighborhood, culturally-deprived environment, inner city ghetto, slum
enhanced interrogation "[E]nhanced interrogation has aways been a kind of handy euphemism" (for torture
Torture is the act of inflicting severe pain as a means of punishment, revenge, forcing information or a confession, or simply as an act of cruelty. Throughout history, torture has often been used as a method of political re-education, interrogation, punishment, and coercion...

fee fine, tax
gaming gambling
gentlemen's club
Gentlemen's club
A gentlemen's club is a members-only private club of a type originally set up by and for British upper class men in the eighteenth century, and popularised by English upper-middle class men and women in the late nineteenth century. Today, some are more open about the gender and social status of...

go-go bar, strip club
Strip club
A strip club is an adult entertainment venue in which striptease or other erotic or exotic dance is regularly performed. Strip clubs typically adopt a nightclub or bar style, but can also adopt a theatre or cabaret-style....

hardware key, hardware token, security device dongle
holiday tree winter tree tree Christmas tree
Christmas tree
The Christmas tree is a decorated evergreen coniferous tree, real or artificial, and a tradition associated with the celebration of Christmas. The tradition of decorating an evergreen tree at Christmas started in Livonia and Germany in the 16th century...

it's snowin' down south your slip is showing
lost their lives were killed
abortion Euthanasia
Euthanasia refers to the practice of intentionally ending a life in order to relieve pain and suffering....

, Infanticide
Infanticide or infant homicide is the killing of a human infant. Neonaticide, a killing within 24 hours of a baby's birth, is most commonly done by the mother.In many past societies, certain forms of infanticide were considered permissible...

, neonaticide
Neonaticide is the killing of a newborn infant less than 24 hours old. It can be divided into criminal neonaticide, which is usually by a mother under severe psychological stress, and customary neonaticide, a practice used in certain cultures at certain times to limit the population.Neonaticide is...

mature, senior, been around the block old, elderly
been around the block having had much sexual experience
bend the truth, white lie, fudge, colour the truth, be economical with the truth, dissemble, little careless of the truth lie
motivation bribe or coercion
peer homework help, comparing answers, collaborating, harvesting answers cheating
persuasion or interrogation torture
Torture is the act of inflicting severe pain as a means of punishment, revenge, forcing information or a confession, or simply as an act of cruelty. Throughout history, torture has often been used as a method of political re-education, interrogation, punishment, and coercion...

pre-owned, pre-loved used or second hand
Second Hand
Second Hand is the title of an album by Mark Heard, released in 1991, on Heard's own Fingerprint Records. The album was listed at #4 in the book CCM Presents: The 100 Greatest Albums in Christian Music ....

 goods, such as automobiles
products of pregnancy fetus (in the context of abortion)
mentally challenged, intellectually challenged stupid, dim, dull, slow; of subnormal intelligence
restroom, powder room (for women) toilet
A toilet is a sanitation fixture used primarily for the disposal of human excrement, often found in a small room referred to as a toilet/bathroom/lavatory...

 room in American English (the word toilet was itself originally a euphemism)
sanitary landfill garbage dump (and a temporary garbage dump
A landfill site , is a site for the disposal of waste materials by burial and is the oldest form of waste treatment...

 is a transfer station), also often called a Civic Amenity
Civic amenity site
A civic amenity site or household waste recycling centre is a facility where the public can dispose of household waste and also often containing recycling points. Civic amenity sites are run by the local authority in a given area. Collection points for recyclable waste such as green waste,...

in the UK
sanitation worker (or, sarcastically, sanitation officer or sanitation engineer) bin man, garbage man
"she's in the club" she's pregnant, chiefly British
State Electrician
State Electrician
"State Electrician" was the euphemistic title given to some American state executioners in states using the electric chair during the early twentieth century....

A judicial executioner is a person who carries out a death sentence ordered by the state or other legal authority, which was known in feudal terminology as high justice.-Scope and job:...

 in cases where an electric chair
Electric chair
Execution by electrocution, usually performed using an electric chair, is an execution method originating in the United States in which the condemned person is strapped to a specially built wooden chair and electrocuted through electrodes placed on the body...

 is used
take legal action sue
Sue or SUE may refer to:* Door County Cherryland Airport in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, USA* The action of filing a lawsuit.* Subsurface Utility Engineering* .sue, alternative name for ARC -Places:...

the big C cancer
Cancer , known medically as a malignant neoplasm, is a large group of different diseases, all involving unregulated cell growth. In cancer, cells divide and grow uncontrollably, forming malignant tumors, and invade nearby parts of the body. The cancer may also spread to more distant parts of the...

 (in addition, some people whisper the word when they say it in public, and doctors euphemistically use technical terminology when discussing cancer in front of patients, e.g., "c.a." or "neoplasia
Neoplasm is an abnormal mass of tissue as a result of neoplasia. Neoplasia is the abnormal proliferation of cells. The growth of neoplastic cells exceeds and is not coordinated with that of the normal tissues around it. The growth persists in the same excessive manner even after cessation of the...

"/"neoplastic process", "carcinoma
Carcinoma is the medical term for the most common type of cancer occurring in humans. Put simply, a carcinoma is a cancer that begins in a tissue that lines the inner or outer surfaces of the body, and that generally arises from cells originating in the endodermal or ectodermal germ layer during...

" for "tumor"); euphemisms for cancer are used even more so in the Netherlands, because the Dutch word for cancer can be used as a curse word
the north of Ireland Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

 (seen by many Irish people
Irish people
The Irish people are an ethnic group who originate in Ireland, an island in northwestern Europe. Ireland has been populated for around 9,000 years , with the Irish people's earliest ancestors recorded having legends of being descended from groups such as the Nemedians, Fomorians, Fir Bolg, Tuatha...

 as a term imposed by the British and therefore a profanity; however, saying the north of Ireland may be primarily a way of identifying oneself with the Irish Nationalist cause, rather than a euphemism)
the Scottish Play Shakespeare's Macbeth
The Tragedy of Macbeth is a play by William Shakespeare about a regicide and its aftermath. It is Shakespeare's shortest tragedy and is believed to have been written sometime between 1603 and 1607...

to cut excesses (in a budget), rightsize, downsize to fire employees
being paid (off), being laid off
let go
being fired from or by one's employer
wellness benefits and treatments that tend to only be used in times of sickness
Sickness may refer to:* Illness* Disease* Nausea* Sickness behaviorIn popular culture:* The Sickness, an album by Disturbed* The Sickness , a book in the Animorphs series...

comfort station Brothel
Brothels are business establishments where patrons can engage in sexual activities with prostitutes. Brothels are known under a variety of names, including bordello, cathouse, knocking shop, whorehouse, strumpet house, sporting house, house of ill repute, house of prostitution, and bawdy house...

, or alternatively, Toilet
a little thin on top bald
exotic dancer stripper
A stripper is a professional erotic dancer who performs a contemporary form of striptease at strip club establishments, public exhibitions, and private engagements. Unlike in burlesque, the performer in the modern Americanized form of stripping minimizes the interaction of customer and dancer,...

visit from the stork give birth
inspired by plagiarized

These lists might suggest that most euphemisms are well-known expressions. Often euphemisms can be somewhat situational; what might be used as a euphemism in a conversation between two friends might make no sense to a third person. In this case, the euphemism is being used as a type of innuendo
An innuendo is a baseless invention of thoughts or ideas. It can also be a remark or question, typically disparaging , that works obliquely by allusion...

. At other times, the euphemism is common in some circles (such as the medical field) but not others, becoming a type of jargon
Jargon is terminology which is especially defined in relationship to a specific activity, profession, group, or event. The philosophe Condillac observed in 1782 that "Every science requires a special language because every science has its own ideas." As a rationalist member of the Enlightenment he...

 or, in underworld situations especially, argot
An Argot is a secret language used by various groups—including, but not limited to, thieves and other criminals—to prevent outsiders from understanding their conversations. The term argot is also used to refer to the informal specialized vocabulary from a particular field of study, hobby, job,...

. One such example is the line "put him in bed with the captain's daughter" from the popular sea shanty Drunken Sailor
Drunken Sailor
Drunken Sailor is a traditional sea shanty also known as What Shall We Do with the Drunken Sailor?It begins with the question, "What shall we do with a drunken sailor, early in the morning?" Each verse thereafter suggests a method of sobering—or castigating, or simply abusing—the sailor.The song...

, which means to give a whipping with the cat o' nine tails
Cat o' nine tails
The cat o' nine tails, commonly shortened to the cat, is a type of multi-tailed whipping device that originated as an implement for severe physical punishment, notably in the Royal Navy and Army of the United Kingdom, and also as a judicial punishment in Britain and some other...

—euphemistically referred to by sailors as the "captain's daughter".

Euphemisms can also be used by governments to rename statutes to use a less offensive expression. For example, in Ontario
Ontario is a province of Canada, located in east-central Canada. It is Canada's most populous province and second largest in total area. It is home to the nation's most populous city, Toronto, and the nation's capital, Ottawa....

, Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, the "Disabled Person Parking Permit
Disabled parking permit
A disabled parking permit, also known as a handicapped permit, disabled placard, disabled badge and "Blue Badge" in the European Union, is displayed upon parking a vehicle carrying a person whose mobility would be otherwise significantly impaired by one or more of age, illness, disability or...

" was renamed to the "Accessible Parking Permit" in 2007.

The word euphemism itself can be used as a euphemism. In the animated short
Short subject
A short film is any film not long enough to be considered a feature film. No consensus exists as to where that boundary is drawn: the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences defines a short film as "an original motion picture that has a running time of 40 minutes or less, including all...

 It's Grinch Night (See Dr. Seuss
Dr. Seuss
Theodor Seuss Geisel was an American writer, poet, and cartoonist most widely known for his children's books written under the pen names Dr. Seuss, Theo LeSieg and, in one case, Rosetta Stone....

), a child asks to go to the euphemism, where euphemism is being used as a euphemism for outhouse
An outhouse is a small structure separate from a main building which often contained a simple toilet and may possibly also be used for housing animals and storage.- Terminology :...

. This euphemistic use of "euphemism" also occurred in the play Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is a play by Edward Albee that opened on Broadway at the Billy Rose Theater on October 13, 1962. The original cast featured Uta Hagen as Martha, Arthur Hill as George, Melinda Dillon as Honey and George Grizzard as Nick. It was directed by Alan Schneider...

where a character requests, "Martha, will you show her where we keep the, uh, euphemism?" It is analogous to the 19th-century use of unmentionables for underpants.

Also, lots of euphemisms are used in the improvised television show, Whose Line Is It Anyway?
Whose Line Is It Anyway?
Whose Line Is It Anyway? is a short-form improvisational comedy TV show. Originally a British radio programme, it moved to television in 1988 as a series made for the UK's Channel 4, for a 10 series run...

. They are used often in the game 'If You Know What I Mean', where players are given a scene and have to use as many obscure clichés and euphemisms as possible.

See also

  • Allusion
    An allusion is a figure of speech that makes a reference to, or representation of, people, places, events, literary work, myths, or works of art, either directly or by implication. M. H...

  • Code word (figure of speech)
    Code word (figure of speech)
    A code word is a word or a phrase designed to convey a predetermined meaning to a receptive audience, while remaining inconspicuous to the uninitiated.- Medical :...

  • Dead Parrot sketch
  • Distancing language
    Distancing language
    Distancing language is phrasing used by people to "distance" themselves from a statement, either to avoid thinking about the subject or to distance themselves from its content...

  • Double entendre
    Double entendre
    A double entendre or adianoeta is a figure of speech in which a spoken phrase is devised to be understood in either of two ways. Often the first meaning is straightforward, while the second meaning is less so: often risqué or ironic....

  • Dysphemism
    In language, dysphemism, malphemism, and cacophemism refer to the usage of an intentionally harsh, rather than polite, word or expression; roughly the opposite of euphemism...

  • Framing (social sciences)
    Framing (social sciences)
    A frame in social theory consists of a schema of interpretation — that is, a collection of anecdotes and stereotypes—that individuals rely on to understand and respond to events. In simpler terms, people build a series of mental filters through biological and cultural influences. They use these...

  • Minimisation
    Minimisation (psychology)
    Minimisation is a type of deception involving denial coupled with rationalisation in situations where complete denial is implausible. It is the opposite of exaggeration....

  • Polite fiction
    Polite fiction
    Polite fiction refers to a social scenario in which all participants are aware of a truth, but pretend to believe in some alternative version of events to avoid conflict or embarrassment...

  • Political correctness
    Political correctness
    Political correctness is a term which denotes language, ideas, policies, and behavior seen as seeking to minimize social and institutional offense in occupational, gender, racial, cultural, sexual orientation, certain other religions, beliefs or ideologies, disability, and age-related contexts,...

  • Pun
    The pun, also called paronomasia, is a form of word play which suggests two or more meanings, by exploiting multiple meanings of words, or of similar-sounding words, for an intended humorous or rhetorical effect. These ambiguities can arise from the intentional use and abuse of homophonic,...

  • Sexual slang
    Sexual slang
    Sexual slang is a set of linguistic terms and phrases used to refer to sexual organs, processes, and activities; they are generally considered colloquial rather than formal or medical, and some may be seen as impolite or improper....

  • Slander and libel
    Slander and libel
    Defamation—also called calumny, vilification, traducement, slander , and libel —is the communication of a statement that makes a claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual, that may give an individual, business, product, group, government, or nation a negative image...

  • Spin (public relations)
    Spin (public relations)
    In public relations, spin is a form of propaganda, achieved through providing an interpretation of an event or campaign to persuade public opinion in favor or against a certain organization or public figure...

  • Thomas Bowdler
    Thomas Bowdler
    Thomas Bowdler was an English physician who published an expurgated edition of William Shakespeare's work, edited by his sister Harriet, intended to be more appropriate for 19th century women and children than the original....

  • Word play
    Word play
    Word play or wordplay is a literary technique in which the words that are used become the main subject of the work, primarily for the purpose of intended effect or amusement...

Further reading

  • Keith Allan., Burridge, Kate
    Kate Burridge
    Professor Kate Burridge, BA , PhD , FAHA, is a prominent Australian linguist specialising in the Germanic languages. Burridge currently occupies the Chair of Linguistics in the School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics at Monash University.Burridge completed her undergraduate training in...

    . Euphemism & Dysphemism: Language Used As Shield and Weapon, Oxford University Press
    Oxford University Press
    Oxford University Press is the largest university press in the world. It is a department of the University of Oxford and is governed by a group of 15 academics appointed by the Vice-Chancellor known as the Delegates of the Press. They are headed by the Secretary to the Delegates, who serves as...

    , 1991. ISBN 0-7351-0288-0.
  • Benveniste, Émile
    Émile Benveniste
    Émile Benveniste was a French Jewish structural linguist, semiotician, an apprentice of Antoine Meilletand his successor, who, in his later years, became enlightened by the structural view of language through the work of Ferdinand de Saussure, although he was unwilling to grasp it at first, being...

    , "Euphémismes anciens and modernes", in: Problèmes de linguistique générale, vol. 1, pp. 308–314. [originally published in: Die Sprache, I (1949), pp. 116–122].
  • R.W.Holder: How Not to Say What You Mean: A Dictionary of Euphemisms, Oxford University Press, 501 pages, 2003. ISBN 0-19-860762-8.
  • Maledicta
    Maledicta, The International Journal of Verbal Aggression, is an academic journal dedicated to the study of offensive and negatively-valued words and expressions. Its main areas of interest are the origin, etymology, meaning, use, and influence of vulgar, obscene, aggressive, abusive, and...

    : The International Journal of Verbal Aggression
    (ISSN US).
  • McGlone, M.S., Beck, G., & Pfiester, R.A. (2006). Contamination and camouflage in euphemisms. Communication Monographs, 73, 261-282.
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