Examples of Euphemism: 80+ Common Phrases

, Staff Writer
Updated August 16, 2021
young girl saying I'm not bossy I'm outspoken
    young girl saying I'm not bossy I'm outspoken
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    Used under Getty Images license

What is a euphemism? A euphemism is a polite expression used in place of words or phrases that might otherwise be considered harsh or unpleasant. These phrases are used regularly, and there are many common examples of euphemisms in everyday language. Which of the following euphemism examples have you used or heard?

Examples of Euphemisms

Euphemisms have many different uses. They can help you avoid being overly blunt and remain in a tone of politeness. People will generally understand the meaning of a euphemism, even though you're not "coming right out with it." With that in mind, let's take a look at a few different categories of euphemisms.

Death and Dying

Does anyone really deal with death well? It's such a delicate — and final — state that many of us like to dance around the truth. Here are some delicate ways to discuss death and dying.

  • passed away instead of died
  • passed over to the other side instead of died
  • late instead of deceased
  • dearly departed instead of deceased
  • resting in peace for deceased
  • no longer with us instead of deceased
  • departed instead of died
  • passed instead of died
  • gone to heaven instead of died
  • gone home instead of died
  • negative patient outcome instead of died
  • put to sleep instead of euthanizing a pet
  • gone over the rainbow bridge instead of died (for a pet)

States of Employment

Although it's far less delicate than death, being unemployed is also difficult to discuss. It's a direct blow to the ego, so many people like to approach this subject with a gentle touch, too.

  • letting someone go instead of firing an employee
  • between jobs instead of unemployed
  • downsized instead of fired
  • chose to resign instead of being given no alternative other than to quit or get fired
  • my position was eliminated instead of I got fired
  • taking an early retirement instead of losing one's job
  • pursuing other opportunities instead of quitting or being fired
  • left the company instead of quit, walked off the job or got fired
  • embarking on a journey of self-discovery instead of jobless
  • considering options instead of unable to find a job
  • over-employed instead of in a job that is beyond one's capabilities
  • under-employed instead of in a job that is below a person's career level

Financial Euphemisms

Talking about money and financial circumstances is sometimes considered inappropriate. As a result, quite a few financial euphemisms exist in everyday conversation. They're often used in conjunction with money slang words.

  • economical instead of cheap
  • frugal instead of cheap
  • thrifty instead of cheap
  • negative cash flow instead of in debt
  • upside-down instead of owing more on an asset than it is worth
  • outstanding payment instead of past-due bill
  • likes to shop instead of chronic overspending
  • economically disadvantaged instead of poor or impoverished
  • financially fortunate instead of spoiled
  • wealthy instead of rich
  • well-off instead of rich
  • developing country instead of a third-world or impoverished nation

Bodily Functions and Aging

To some people, bodily functions and age are topics to be glossed over rather than to be addressed directly. Will any of the following skirts around the truth soften the proverbial "blow?"

  • powder your nose instead of go to the toilet
  • break wind instead of pass gas or fart
  • visit the ladies' room instead of go to the bathroom
  • indisposed instead of in the bathroom
  • tinkle for urinate
  • number one for urinate
  • number two for a bowel movement
  • time of the month instead of menstruating
  • sniffles instead of runny nose
  • aging instead of getting old
  • golden years instead of old age
  • experienced instead of old
  • seasoned instead of old

Characteristics, Attributes and Behaviors

When you were raised, you may have been told to avoid saying anything if you can't find anything nice to say. With that in mind, it's common for people to use euphemisms when describing less-than-flattering characteristics or attributes about a person or to describe behaviors that are less than desirable.

  • big-boned instead of large
  • well-fed instead of overweight
  • curvy instead of fat
  • petite instead of short
  • unique instead of odd or weird
  • special instead of conforming with expectations
  • late bloomer instead of being behind grade level
  • truth-challenged instead of dishonest
  • running a little behind instead of late
  • overzealous instead of aggressive
  • inquisitive instead of asking questions incessantly
  • outspoken instead of bossy

Circumstances of Life

There are many circumstances of life, some of which are often described using euphemisms than being referred to in a direct manner. Explore a selection of euphemisms that describe a variety of situations.

  • correctional facility instead of jail or prison
  • in a family way instead of pregnant
  • with child instead of pregnant
  • au natural instead of naked or nude
  • under the weather instead of sick or ill
  • unavailable instead of not here
  • otherwise occupied instead of busy
  • otherwise engaged instead of doing something else
  • highly strung instead of poorly behaved
  • precocious instead of badly behaved

Sexual Activities

It's hard to say if people really avoid "sex talk" these days. All you have to do is settle down for an epic TV marathon and you'll be met with countless scenes pertaining to sex. However, some folks prefer to approach the subject with euphemistic bliss rather than direct discussion.

  • birds and the bees instead of how babies are made
  • going all the way instead of having sex
  • doing it for having sex
  • making whoopee instead of having sex
  • sleeping with for having sex with
  • sleeping around for cheating on one's partner
  • afternoon delight for daytime sex
  • hanky panky for fooling around; could be "making out" or sex
  • going to third base instead of sexual touching

Don't Be So Literal

These are just some of the many euphemisms that you may encounter. Now that you're familiar with the euphemism definition, you'll probably notice them a lot in everyday conversation and in literature. The next time you or someone you're speaking with says something that has a different meaning than the literal words, consider whether the statement is a euphemism for some other less polite, less pleasing word or phrase. If the substitute statement has a negative connotation rather than a polite, positive one, what you're seeing is probably a dysphemism instead of a euphemism.

Do these examples remind you of anything? Perhaps you're thinking about idioms. Idioms are words or phrases that aren't meant to be taken literally, like having "cold feet" instead of being nervous about something. Take a look at these idiom examples to see if you can spot the difference between euphemisms and idioms.