eclectic content


[eu ・phe・mism / yóo:fə:mízm /]

A euphemism is an expression intended by the speaker to be less offensive, disturbing, or troubling to the listener that the word or phase it replaces.
Euphemisms may also be used to make a concept more pleasing or acceptable to the listener.

< Words as having "magical" power: tying in the "taboo" concept to the main definition.>

When a phrase is used as a euphemism, it often becomes a metaphor whose literal meaning is dropped. Euphemisms are often used to hide unpleasant or disturbing ideas, even when the literal term for them is not necessarily offensive. This type of euphemism is used in [[public relations]] and [[politics]], where it is sometimes called [[doublespeak]].

There are also superstitious euphemisms, based (consciously or unconsciously) on the idea that words have the power to bring bad fortune (for example, using the phrase "the big C" instead of using the word "cancer") and religious euphemisms, based on the idea that some words are sacred, or that some words are spiritually imperiling (for example, not using the Lord's name in vain/"swearing"). [1]

The word '''euphemism''' comes from the Greek word ''euphemos'', meaning "auspicious/good/fortunate speech" which in turn is derived from the Greek root-words ''eu'' (ευ), "good/well" + ''pheme'' (φήμη) "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(truth?) [1]. By speaking only words favorable to the gods or spirits, the speaker attempted to procure good fortune by remaining in good favor with them.

The English language contains numerous euphemisms related to death, dying, and burial, and the people and places which deal with death. The practice of using euphemisms for death is likely to have originated with the belief [3] 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).

Political euphamisms

What distinguishes doublespeak from other euphemisms is its deliberate usage by governmental, military, or corporate institutions. A simple example would be the use of the word ''casualties'' instead of ''deaths'', or ''taking friendly fire'' as a euphemism for being attacked by your own troops. Commentators such as [[Noam Chomsky]] and [[George Orwell]] have written at length about the dangers of allowing such euphemisms to shape public perceptions and national policy.

[1] See "taboo words"
[2] See "magical thinking"
[3] see [[List_of_euphemisms#Military|other examples]] on the [[List of Euphemisms]]


<per the Encarta dictionary, English, North America, 2005>

meaning 1 = less offensive synonym

• The phrase “collateral damage” is a euphemism for injury to civilians during a military operation.

meaning 2 = use of inoffensive words

the use of a word or phrase that is more neutral, vague, or indirect
to replace a direct, harsh, unpleasant, or offensive term



1 【U】 〔修辞学〕 婉曲(えんきよく)語法.
2 【C】 婉曲語句 〔for〕



Note: Parts of this definition have been used in Wikipedia. Text by other Wikipedia authors is in black..

Language & Power: Euphemism and dysphemism

unrelated link:

11-May-2005/12-May-2005; lyberty