innocuous word or expression used in place of one that may be found offensive or which the speaker wants to hide

Euphemism is the use of a word (or phrase) that replaces another one that one thinks to be too offensive or vulgar.[1][2]

It also may be a replacement of a name or a word, that could reveal a secret or holy and sacred names to the uninitiated. It may also be used to obscure the identity of the subject of a conversation from potential eavesdroppers. A well known example for many is the replacement of Lord Voldemort's name by "You-Know-Who" or "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named" in Harry Potter. Some euphemisms are intended to be humorous.

When a phrase is used as a euphemism, it often becomes a metaphor whose literal meaning is dropped. Euphemisms may be 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 politics.

Common examples


Examples for euphemisms are:[3][4]

  • restroom for toilet (the word toilet was itself originally a euphemism). This is an Americanism.
  • making love to, doing it, or sleeping with for having sex
  • mature or golden years for old age or elderly
  • police action for undeclared war
  • in the club for pregnant
  • tired and emotional for drunk (mostly British)
  • self-charging hybrid for a hybrid vehicle without the ability to charge the battery from an external power source.
    • All plug-In hybrids are also self-charging hybrids, just like all squares are rectangles but not the other way around.
  • unibody = Non-replaceable mobile phone battery.
  • passed away for died


English Wiktionary
The English Wiktionary has a dictionary definition (meanings of a word) for: euphemism
  1. EuphemismWebster's Online Dictionary Archived 2007-10-16 at the Wayback Machine
  2. Miller, Donald F. 1986. The necessity of euphemism. Diogenes. 34: 129-135,
  3. Rawson, Hugh 1995. A dictionary of euphemism & other doublespeak. 2nd ed, ISBN 0-517-70201-0
  4. Holder R.W. 2003. How not to say what you mean: a dictionary of euphemisms. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-860762-8