What Is a Euphemism? (with Examples)

Euphemism

A euphemism is the use of agreeable or inoffensive words to replace rude or offensive ones.

euphemism examples

A euphemism is a figure of speech, which means "an expression in which the words are not used in their literal sense." Therefore, euphemisms are classified as figurative language, which is the "use of words in an unusual or imaginative manner."

Examples of Euphemisms

Here are some examples of common euphemisms:
  • He has passed away.
  • (Euphemism for He has died.)
  • She is between jobs.
  • (She is unemployed.)
  • She has resigned her commission.
  • (She has been sacked.)
  • He is a little thin on top.
  • (He is losing his hair.)
  • This pre-loved sofa is for sale.
  • (This second-hand sofa is for sale.)

Examples of Euphemisms Designed to Be Less Offensive

Here are some euphemisms designed not to offend:
  • Adam, did you recycle Jack's research?
  • (plagiarise)
  • There's a technicoloured yawn on path.
  • (pool of vomit)
  • She is economical with the truth.
  • (a liar)

More Examples of Common Euphemisms

Here are some more commonly used euphemisms:

EuphemismMeaning
a few sandwiches short of a picnicmad
cognitively challengedstupid
didn't make ithas died
differently ableddisabled
exotic dancerstripper
kicked the buckethas died
knocked upis pregnant
letting you goyou're fired
lost his marblesmad
over the hilltoo old to function effectively
visually challengedvisually impaired

Why Should I Care about Euphemisms?

Consider a euphemism to deliver tough news.

While euphemisms can be used for comic effect, they can also be used to soften tough news or uncomfortable ideas. Euphemisms usually undermine the offensiveness of a negative idea (e.g., death, old age, madness) by being polite, witty, or a bit of both. When talking to a grieving widow, for example, a polite euphemism for dead (e.g., passed away, resting in peace) will be more appropriate than a witty one (e.g., kicked the oxygen habit, plucking turnips). You can use well-known euphemisms or even invent your own.
Interactive Exercise
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See Also

What is analogy? What is figurative language? What is a figure of speech? What does literal meaning mean? What is a metaphor? What is a simile? What is personification? What is hyperbole? What is an idiom? What is alliteration? What is assonance? What is consonance? What is a logosglyph? What is onomatopoeia? Glossary of grammatical terms