Definition of euphemism in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈyo͞ofəˌmizəm/


A mild or indirect word or expression substituted for one considered to be too harsh or blunt when referring to something unpleasant or embarrassing: downsizing” as a euphemism for cuts The opposite of dysphemism.
More example sentences
  • As a practical matter, the current legal regime substitutes palliative euphemisms for useful controls on police discretion.
  • Languages are constantly developing euphemisms for sex words.
  • Sir John could be counted on not to speak in mild euphemisms.
polite term, indirect term, circumlocution, substitute, alternative, understatement, genteelism


Late 16th century: from Greek euphēmismos, from euphēmizein 'use auspicious words', from eu 'well' + phēmē 'speaking'.

  • This word is from Greek eu ‘well’ and phēmē ‘speaking’ from phēnai ‘to speak’, which is also where prophet (Middle English) came from. Several other English words start with eu meaning ‘well’. The eucalyptus tree (early 19th century) is literally ‘well covered’: it is so called because the unopened flower is protected by a sort of cap. If you give a eulogy (Late Middle English) you praise, or speak well of, someone: the -logy part, found in a great many English words, comes from Greek logos ‘speech, word, reason’. If something is euphonious (late 18th century) it is pleasing to the ear – phōnē ‘sound’ is the Greek root (the mid 19th-century euphonium, which not everyone finds pleasing, comes from the same word). Finally, euthanasia (early 17th century) is literally ‘an easy death’: thanatos is ‘death’ in Greek. The euro- in Europe and related words is unconnected. Europe is from Europa, the name of a princess of Tyre, in modern-day Lebanon, who was admired by the god Zeus. He turned himself into a bull and swam across the sea to Crete with the princess on his back. Once in Crete Europa bore Zeus three sons, and eventually gave her name to the continent of Europe.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: eu·phe·mism

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