27 Common Euphemisms and Their Meanings ...

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27 Common Euphemisms and Their Meanings ...
27 Common Euphemisms and Their Meanings ...

The English language is full of common euphemisms, phrases which we use every day to avoid saying something directly, often without even realizing we are using a euphemism. But what are some of the most common euphemisms used today, and what do they actually mean?

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1

Passed Away

This one is one of the most common euphemisms, so much so that you probably didn’t even realize it was a euphemism. This one is used to avoid mentioning death, and with euphemisms being used to avoid discussing unpleasant topics, it is unsurprising that so many common ones relate to death.

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The phrase passed away is often chosen over more direct terms like died as it sounds softer and less final, providing a certain level of comfort and respectability to the conversation. It gently phrases the concept of death in a way that can be less jarring, making it a more palatable topic for many people. Additionally, passed away implies a peaceful transition, which can offer solace to those mourning the loss of a loved one. The phrase delicately acknowledges the end of life without the harshness that the word death can sometimes convey.

2

Up the Duff

This phrase that we use to say that somebody is pregnant is supposed to be a euphemism, when really it’s far more unpleasant than just saying that someone is pregnant. Strange really.

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The phrase "Up the Duff" is a British slang term for being pregnant. It is thought to have originated in the early 20th century, and is believed to be derived from the phrase "in the duff", which was used to describe a woman's pregnant state. The phrase is considered to be a euphemism, as it is seen as a more socially acceptable way of talking about pregnancy.

However, the phrase is often seen as being more unpleasant than simply saying someone is pregnant. This is due to the fact that it implies the woman is in a state of disarray or chaos, which is seen as being derogatory.

The phrase is still in use today, although it has become less common due to its negative connotations. It is primarily used in the United Kingdom, although it can be heard in other English-speaking countries as well. It is primarily used in informal contexts, such as among family and friends.

It is important to note that the phrase should never be used in a derogatory or demeaning manner, as this is seen as being highly offensive. It is important to respect the privacy of pregnant women and to use appropriate language when talking about them.

3

A Few Sandwiches Short of a Picnic

This is one of the fairly amusing everyday euphemisms and is used to suggest that somebody is a little bit intellectually challenged (oh no, not another euphemism!). It may not be a nice way to describe somebody, but it’s considered nicer than saying somebody is stupid.

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This phrase is often used in a lighthearted manner to gently poke fun at someone's lack of intelligence. It originated in the early 1900s and has been a popular euphemism ever since. The use of the word "picnic" in this phrase is thought to refer to a leisurely and enjoyable activity, implying that the person in question may not be able to fully participate in such activities due to their intellectual limitations. While it may not be the kindest way to describe someone, it is often used in a playful manner among friends or acquaintances.

4

Put to Sleep

It’s quite a common death euphemism, but it’s specific to animals, usually pets, as in being put down by a vet. You can see where the phrase comes from, because the animals just die as peacefully as if they were drifting off to sleep.

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Another reason why the phrase "put to sleep" is used when referring to the death of animals is because it softens the emotional impact of losing a beloved pet. It allows pet owners to cope with the loss in a more gentle way, rather than facing the harsh reality of death. However, the term has also been criticized for being too euphemistic and not fully acknowledging the gravity of the situation. Some argue that using phrases like "euthanize" or "put down" would be more accurate and respectful towards the animal. Despite the controversy, "put to sleep" remains a commonly used euphemism in the context of pet deaths.

5

Lady of the Night

The only euphemism making the list that describes a prostitute, ‘lady of the night’ is unusual in that it’s a term to describe a normally vilified somebody in as pleasant a way as possible, but not to avoid offending them, but because it’s a bit of a taboo to discuss prostitution. Let’s face it, most people don’t really consider prostitutes to be ‘ladies,’ do they?

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The term "lady of the night" is often used as a euphemism for a prostitute, particularly in literature and media. This phrase has been in use since the 1700s, and it is believed to have originated from the French term "dame de la nuit." The use of this euphemism reflects society's discomfort with discussing prostitution openly. Despite its seemingly polite connotation, it still carries a negative stigma and reinforces societal attitudes towards sex work. In some cultures, the term "lady of the night" is also used to refer to a woman who works as a performer or entertainer in the evening. However, the primary connotation remains associated with prostitution.

6

Couch Potato

This is one of many common euphemisms that can mean slightly different things depending on where you’re from. A lot of people use it to describe somebody who is overweight, while others understand it to really describe somebody who is just lazy, whatever size they are.

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The term "couch potato" originated in the 1970s and was popularized by a British sitcom called "The Good Life." It refers to a person who spends a lot of time sitting on a couch or recliner, typically watching TV or being inactive. It can also be used to describe someone who is lazy or has a sedentary lifestyle. The term has evolved to also include someone who is addicted to binge-watching TV shows or movies. In 2010, the term was officially recognized by the Oxford English Dictionary, solidifying its place in modern language.

7

Kick the Bucket

This is another of the euphemisms in common use about death, but it’s an odd phrase and there is debate about where it comes from. One theory is that it comes from the use of hanging as a method of execution, where the victim was stood on an upturned bucket until it was kicked out from under them, and they died.

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Another theory suggests that the phrase originated from the practice of placing a bucket under a dying person's feet to catch any bodily fluids. Once the person passed away, the bucket would be kicked away, symbolizing their departure from this world. Regardless of its origin, "kick the bucket" has become a widely used phrase to refer to death in a more lighthearted manner. It is often used as a way to soften the harsh reality of death, especially when discussing it with children or in polite company. However, it's important to remember that death is a natural part of life and should be treated with respect and sensitivity.

8

Knocked up

This is another everyday euphemism about pregnancy, and yet again, it’s more unpleasant than just saying that somebody is pregnant. Bearing in mind that it usually describes accidental or irresponsible pregnancy, it’s possible that it came into use because it seems to remove the blame from the woman.

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The phrase "knocked up" is often used to describe accidental or unplanned pregnancy, and it is considered a euphemism because it is a less direct and potentially less offensive way of referring to the situation. This phrase is commonly used in casual conversation and in media, such as movies and TV shows. It is believed that the term originated in the early 1800s and was used to describe a woman who was "knocked up" by a man, meaning she was impregnated. However, the phrase has evolved over time and is now used more broadly to describe any unplanned pregnancy. Despite its widespread use, the term has been criticized for being derogatory towards women and implying a lack of responsibility on the part of the man involved.

9

Sleep with

Another of the most common euphemisms, ‘sleeping with’ someone really means having sex with them. It’s really nothing to do with sleeping, although it probably came about because of the usual use of a bed, and with the sleeping that often follows.

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This euphemism is often used in the context of romantic relationships and can be traced back to the Victorian era when discussing sex openly was considered taboo. It is still commonly used in literature and media, particularly in the romance genre. However, it is also used in casual conversations and can be seen as a more polite way of discussing sexual activities. It allows individuals to avoid using explicit language and can be seen as a more subtle and discreet way of communicating about sex. However, some argue that using this euphemism perpetuates the idea that sex is something to be ashamed of and should not be openly discussed.

10

Exotic Dancer

It’s unusual, this one, because it’s a euphemism that is mostly used by people to describe themselves, or someone they care about. Strippers don’t like to be called strippers, and strippers’ friends and boyfriends don’t tend to want them to be called strippers either, so instead they are exotic dancers.

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Exotic dancer is a term commonly used in the adult entertainment industry to refer to a person who performs striptease or other erotic dances for a living. The term is often preferred by those in the industry as it sounds more glamorous and less objectifying than the term "stripper." However, the term has also been criticized for perpetuating the notion of exoticism and fetishization of women's bodies. The use of this euphemism highlights the societal stigma and shame associated with the profession, leading individuals to use more socially acceptable terms to describe their occupation. Despite the controversy surrounding the term, exotic dancers continue to play a significant role in the adult entertainment industry, with many performers using it as a way to reclaim their profession and empower themselves.

11

Offed Himself

This is another one about death, although it’s the only one on the list that relates directly to suicide. Suicide is still quite a taboo subject, so it’s unsurprising that people don’t want to say it directly, although it is a somewhat derogatory, and certainly insensitive, phrase.

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In the literary world, the use of euphemisms has been a long-standing practice to soften the impact of sensitive or taboo topics. However, the phrase "offed himself" has sparked controversy as it can be seen as dismissive and disrespectful towards the seriousness of suicide. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, with an average of 132 Americans dying by suicide every day. Therefore, it is important for writers and media outlets to carefully consider the language they use when discussing such sensitive topics.

12

Ethnic Cleansing

This is one of the most euphemistic phrases in the English language, literally suggesting that people of a certain ethnicity are being washed, when really it’s used to describe genocide.

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Ethnic cleansing is a term used to describe the forced removal or extermination of a particular ethnic group from a specific area. It is often used as a euphemism for genocide, which is the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, ethnic, or religious group. This phrase has been used throughout history to justify violent and discriminatory actions against minority groups. In recent years, it has been used to describe the atrocities committed against the Rohingya people in Myanmar and the Uighur Muslims in China. The use of this phrase minimizes the severity and brutality of these acts, perpetuating a dangerous narrative that allows for the continued oppression and violence against marginalized communities.

13

Differently Abled

One of the nicest common euphemisms we have, we can describe someone as differently abled to avoid saying they are disabled. It’s nice because it suggests that they are not less able than us, but that they are in fact just able in a different way.

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The term "differently abled" is often used to describe individuals with disabilities in a more positive and inclusive way. It emphasizes their unique abilities and challenges, rather than focusing solely on their limitations. This term is especially popular in the disability rights movement, as it promotes the idea that individuals with disabilities should not be defined by their disabilities. It also highlights the need for accommodations and support to help individuals with disabilities thrive in society. However, some critics argue that this term can still perpetuate ableism and suggest that individuals with disabilities are different from the norm. Overall, the use of this euphemism reflects society's evolving attitudes towards disabilities and the importance of using respectful language when discussing individuals with disabilities.

14

Visually Challenged

This is another euphemism about people having disabilities, although this one is specifically about being blind or partially sighted. It has become the basis of other euphemisms, with some short people referring to themselves as ‘vertically challenged,’ and many other similar phrases.

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Visually challenged is a term used to refer to individuals who have visual impairments or are blind. It is often used as a euphemism to avoid using the word "blind" which may be considered offensive. This term has also given rise to other euphemisms such as "vertically challenged" for short people. The use of euphemisms in language is common, especially when discussing sensitive topics such as disabilities. However, it is important to be mindful of the impact these terms may have on the individuals they are referring to and to use them with sensitivity and respect.

15

Didn’t Make It

This is yet another one meaning that someone has died, although we tend to say that someone didn’t make it if they were in an accident or fighting an illness, as it suggests that somebody didn’t make it through something.

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This particular euphemism is often used in the context of discussing death in a more subtle or delicate way. It is commonly used when referring to someone who has passed away due to an accident or illness, as it implies that they were unable to overcome the situation. This phrase can also be used to soften the blow of someone's passing, as it doesn't explicitly mention death. It is a common phrase used in literature and media to convey the idea of death without being too direct.

16

Frumpy

We certainly don’t like to call people fat, which is why we have everyday euphemisms like ‘frumpy,’ although when the meaning is so well known, it can be just as offensive. It’s more that people don’t feel as bad about insulting another person if they are less direct about it, even if what they say means the same thing.

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Frumpy is a common euphemism used to describe someone who is overweight, usually referring to someone with an outdated or unfashionable style of dress. It is often used as an insult, and is a way of expressing disapproval of someone's physical appearance without directly calling them fat.

The use of euphemisms such as 'frumpy' can be seen as a way of avoiding direct confrontation, as people often feel more comfortable insulting someone without using direct language. However, the meaning behind the words is often still clear, and can be just as hurtful.

The term 'frumpy' is often used to describe a person's physical appearance, but can also be used to describe their attitude or behavior. It is usually used to imply that someone is boring and uninteresting.

Euphemisms such as 'frumpy' can be seen as a way of trying to make negative language sound more polite. However, it is important to remember that the meaning behind the words can still be hurtful, and should be used with caution.

17

Leg over

Getting your leg over is essentially having sex with someone, but again, it’s more unpleasant than just saying so. It implies a sense of achievement, and sexual conquest, which is perhaps why it is more commonly used by men.

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The term "leg over" is a euphemism for sexual intercourse. It is primarily used by men and implies a sense of sexual conquest. This term is often used in place of more direct terms such as "having sex" or "intercourse" in order to avoid being too direct or graphic.

The use of euphemisms to describe sexual activities is not uncommon. Other common euphemisms include "sleeping together," "hooking up," and "getting busy." These terms are often used to avoid the discomfort of having to directly talk about sex or to avoid using explicit language.

Euphemisms are also used to soften the meaning of certain activities. For example, people may refer to "making love" instead of "having sex," or "playing doctor" instead of "masturbation."

Euphemisms are used in all aspects of life, not just in the context of sex. People may also use euphemisms to refer to death ("passed away"), swear words ("darn"), or unpleasant tasks ("dusting").

18

Doing It

This is the last of the sex euphemisms, and is a very popular one, particularly because it’s fairly inconspicuous and can be used in front of children because it will pass entirely over their heads. ‘It’ is often used on its own to mean sexual intercourse, too. We seem to love avoiding talking about it directly.

19

A Few Extra Pounds

When you find yourself discussing someone that you recently saw and want to express your opinion about your observations, it is much more polite to say that they have gained a few extra pounds than bluntly calling them fat. Weight is a sensitive subject especially for women, which is why we all avoid blurting out words like obese, fat, and overweight.

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This paragraph highlights the importance of using polite language when discussing someone's weight. It acknowledges the sensitivity surrounding weight, particularly for women, and suggests using phrases like "a few extra pounds" instead of more direct terms like "fat" or "obese". This is a common euphemism used in daily conversations and is also seen in literature, where authors often use euphemisms to avoid causing offense. In the book "Little Women", the character Meg is described as having "a full figure" instead of being called overweight. This shows how euphemisms have been used throughout history to address sensitive topics like weight.

20

Visit the Ladies Room

This euphemism in common use is not used for politeness in the same way as many of the others, but more because we tend to be embarrassed of our natural bodily functions, particularly with people we don’t really know. All it really means is that we need to use the toilet.

21

Letting Someone Go

When it comes to firing someone, you rarely hear the exact words of 'You are fired' unless of course your boss doesn't care about your feelings. However instead most people word it differently in order to appear polite and less harsh. What they usually say is 'I am sorry but we have to let you go.' Sounds a lot nicer, but the meaning is unfortunately the same.

22

On the Streets

When you are describing someone with an unfortunate lifestyle or history, you try to refrain from describing them as homeless or as a bum. One of the common ways to express the same idea is to say that the person spend a big chunk of his or her life on the streets.

23

Full Figured

This is the final ‘fat’ euphemism to make the list, and is probably the kindest of all of them. Perhaps that’s because we often don’t actually want to be offensive or negative about somebody when we call them full figured. The same cannot be said of the other fat euphemisms, which, let’s face it, are hardly real euphemisms at all.

24

Categorical Inaccuracy

When ordinary people conceal the truth and say something that is not consistent with the facts, that is considered lying. However when it comes to politics it is all different. If somebody in power is not saying the truth, it is incompetent to call them liars instead we say that there were categorical inaccuracies in what they said.

25

Lost His/her Marbles

Mental health professionals usually don't call people with mental problems crazy because that word has negative connotations and instead they often refer to those mental issues as a disease. However ordinary people like us, usually say that the person lost his or her marbles instead of stating that they are nuts, mad, or kooky. Although these euphemisms are vague, sometimes they can still sound hurtful to the people with the mental problems.

26

Over the Hill

We all know that age is a sensitive subject to all women, after all who is looking forward to getting grey hair, wrinkles and sagging skin. However sooner or later, we will all have to face this problem but that doesn't mean that we have to say that we are old or ancient. There are better words to refer to people who have reached the climax of their life time by saying that they are over the hill.

27

Between Jobs

Unemployment rates are high, especially in the current state of the economy and some people are suffering financially. Many have been cut and now are having a hard time finding a permanent job but instead of referring to themselves as unemployed these people say that they are between jobs. Although it sounds a lot better, it doesn't change their situation.

When you sit down and think about it, common euphemisms are often very interesting, but given that they are supposed to help us avoid saying something unpleasant, they often aren’t very nice at all. It’s no wonder that English can be so perplexing for people learning it as a second language. What's the strangest euphemism you've ever heard?

This article was written in collaboration with editor Vladlena Lee

Feedback Junction

Where Thoughts and Opinions Converge

Mental health should be treated just like any other illness because believe it or not, the mind can take ill just like any other physical illness.

Also 'not my cup of tea'

Rude of that author to judge Prostitutes and strippers.

Reminds me of George Carlin!

Sometimes I don't know what people are talking about when they talk about doing it

Ok.....

Society needs to get over the 'fat' insult. Seriously. It's not helping anyone, and it can be really challenging to just , as a matter-of-fact, talk about size without offending anyone.

ye i agree lol

JLo! She looks amazing! & also mariah carey

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