Euphemism consists in using a mild, comforting term in place of one considered negative, or offensive.
The use of a mild, comforting, or evasive expression that takes the place of one considered to be taboo, negative, offensive, or too blunt, i.e., substituting the word ‘terminate’ for ‘kill’.

What Is Euphemism?

Euphemism (etymologically from Greek “euphemizein,” literally means “to speak fair”) exclusively consists in the use of a mild, comforting, or evasive expression that takes the place of one considered to be taboo, negative, offensive, or too blunt. For example:

  • √   terminate, for ‘kill,’
  • √   sleep with substituted for, ‘have sex with,’etc.

The word euphemism itself is euphemistic; it takes the bad, the ugly, and the worse and revamps it, adds a little flourishing color and embellishes it to give out a refreshing and attractive feel. It conceals what would rather seem unwelcomed, then refurbishes it in the manner that commands tolerance. By virtue of diction-license, I’ll call euphemism a Rebranded English, for the fact that it occurs with strings of white lies; though beautiful in its outer layer, yet so wittingly harmful within.

Euphemism largely depends on the context it is used, some are intended to amuse; while some are merely used in connotation with bland, and innocuous terms to downplay things the speaker or writer considers spiteful. For example, the term “downsize” is commonly borrowed by organization to substitute for detrimental words like “retrenchment” or “fire”.

Some Euphemism Examples
Spiteful Terms Euphemistic Substitution
  • Enhanced interrogation
  • Wrong side of the track
  • Expecting, with a child, Eating for two, Bun in the oven
  • Tired and emotional
  • Person(s) with special needs, Physically challenged
  • Gone to be with the Lord
Sexual Act
  • Do it or come together
  • Going to the other side
  • Custodian, Care-taker
Garbage Man (Nig:Dutty Man)
  • Sanitation/Waste management worker
  • Economically challenged, Working class, Underprivileged
  • Adult content, Adult entertainment

One of the advantages of Euphemism is that it creates the avenue for writers or speakers to judiciously express certain ideas that may be conceived as having negative connotation or socially awkward and too sensitive to mention publicly. Now, such sensitive subjects, like: death, sexuality, disability, political vices, religious zealots etc, can be innocuously addressed.

Further Readings:
Wikipedia | EuphemismOpens in new window
Silva Rhetoricae, Figures | EuphemismusOpens in new window
The Ten Commandments of Propaganda, By Brian Anse Patrick | Use of Dysphemisms and Euphemisms in PersonalizationOpens in new window