A euphemism is a polite expression used in place of words or phrases that might otherwise be considered harsh or unpleasant. These phrases are used regularly, and there are many examples of euphemisms in everyday language.
Euphemisms have many different uses. They can help you avoid being overly blunt and remain in a tone of politeness. People will generally understand the euphemism meaning, even though you're not "coming right out with it." With that in mind, let's take a look at a few different categories of euphemisms.
Does anyone really deal with death well? It's such a delicate - and final - state that many of us like to dance around the truth. Here are some delicate ways to discuss death and dying.
Passed away instead of died
Dearly departed instead of died
Ethnic cleansing instead of genocide
Negative patient outcome instead of died
Collateral damage instead of accidental deaths
Put to sleep instead of euthanize
Pregnancy termination instead of abortion
Bite the big one instead of die
Bought the farm instead of died
Wearing cement shoes instead of killed
Bit the dust instead of died
Croaked instead of died
Kick the bucket instead of die
Whacked instead of killed
Although it's far less delicate than death, being unemployed is also difficult to discuss. It's a direct blow to the ego, so many people like to approach this subject with a gentle touch, too.
Letting someone go instead of firing someone
On the streets instead of homeless
Correctional facility instead of jail
Between jobs instead of unemployed
Relocation center instead of prison camp
Economical instead of cheap
Negative cash flow instead of broke
Taking an early retirement instead of got fired
Urban outdoorsman instead of homeless
Embarking on a journey of self-discovery instead of jobless
There are some women out there who will never let a man know they experience any type of bodily function. Heaven forbid! Some women (and men) also like to avoid the truth about their age. Let's see if any of these skirts around the truth will soften the proverbial "blow."
Powder your nose instead of go to the toilet
Break wind instead of pass gas or fart
Blow chunks instead of vomit
Making a deposit in the porcelain bank instead of going to the bathroom
Fired a shot instead of flatulence
Backed up worse than the Hoover Dam instead of constipated
Over the hill and picking up speed instead of really old
Let's face it. People can sometimes be mean. Even though our mothers taught us, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all," perhaps one of these can relay a not-so-kind truth.
Big-boned instead of fat or overweight
Portly instead of heavy or overweight
Vertically-challenged instead of short
Moon landing instead of bald
Differently-abled instead of handicapped or disabled
Bad rug instead of toupee
One sandwich short of a picnic instead of not smart
Not the sharpest pencil in the box instead of not smart
His elevator doesn't reach the top floor instead of not smart
Chronologically-challenged instead of late
Economical with the truth instead of liar
It's hard to say if people really avoid "sex talk" these days. All you have to do is settle down for an epic TV marathon and you'll be met with countless scenes pertaining to sex. However, some folks like to remain "a lady on the streets" and here's how to approach the subject with euphemistic bliss.
Turn a trick instead of engage in prostitution
Au natural instead of naked
Comfort woman instead of prostitute
Birds and the bees instead of sex
Go all the way instead of have sex
Batting for the other team instead of homosexual
Hide the sausage instead of have sex
Making whoopee instead of having sex
Self-service instead of masturbation
Paddling the pink canoe instead of masturbation.
Cleaning the pipes instead of masturbation
Jerk the gherkin instead of instead of masturbation
In some cases, euphemisms are intentionally gross. These are usually used when people are being sarcastic or trying to make light of a serious subject. Other times, a euphemism is simply meant to be funny. Either way, you can keep a whole stack of them up your sleeve for a rainy day. You never know when you might want to comment on the shots fired by your stinky co-worker.
These are just some of the many euphemisms that you may encounter. The next time you or someone you're speaking with says something that has a different meaning than the literal words, consider whether the statement is a euphemism for some other less polite, less pleasing word or phrase.
Do these examples remind you of anything? Perhaps you're thinking about idioms. Idioms are words or phrases that aren't meant to be taken literally, like having "cold feet" instead of being nervous about something. Take a look at these idiom examples to see if you can spot the difference between euphemisms and idioms.