Euphemism: Definition and Examples of Euphemism in Speech & Literature

Sometimes during English speech or in written language, you will come across something called Euphemism, but what exactly is this? In this article, we are going to look further into what euphemism is and how it can be used in conversation. We will be looking at examples if euphemism in use, in both day to day speech and within the literature.


Euphemism Definition

When a person uses euphemism, they are replacing a word or phrase with another in order to make the sentence sound less offensive. In day to day figurative language, euphemism can be used to intentionally alter a sentence to lessen the harshness of its meaning without actually removing the meaning. For example, if you were in a fancy restaurant, you may not announce that you were going to take a pee, instead you may use a euphemism such as ‘I am going to use the bathroom.‘ This would imply the same thing but sound much more pleasant.

In some cases, euphemisms are used in a more comedic way. In this sense, they are used to imply a sexual meaning by using a different word that might resemble what is actually being talk about. For example, the use of the eggplant emoji to refer to a penis in texting would fall under the category of euphemism.

In some cases, it is fun for the listener or reader to interpret the euphemism in their own way. Even though most euphemisms have a generic meaning, one can use the imagination to make up their own meanings.

Euphemism Examples

Examples of Euphemism in Day to Day Conversation

There will be many times in which you might hear a euphemism used during a conversation. We are going to look at some examples of euphemism as well as what it is that they are replacing.

  • Passed away which is a euphemism for died.
  • Put to sleep which is a euphemism for euthanized.
  • Terminate a pregnancy which is a euphemism for abortion.
  • Collateral damage which is a euphemism for accidental deaths.
  • Kicked the bucket which is a euphemism for died.
  • I’ll have to let him go, which is a euphemism for I’ll have to fire him.
  • Out of work which is a euphemism for unemployed.
  • Passing wind is a euphemism for farting.
  • Powdering your nose which is a euphemism for going to the bathroom.
  • Dropping the kids off at the pool which is a euphemism for going for a poo.
  • Over the hill which is a euphemism for getting older.
  • Big boned which is a euphemism for someone who is obese.
  • He is vertically challenged which is a euphemism for he is short in height.
  • One sandwich is short of a picnic which is a euphemism for not being incredibly clever.
  • Not all there which is a euphemism for being a little crazy.
  • Talk about the birds and the bees which is a euphemism for talking about sex.
  • They went all the way which is a euphemism for saying they had sex.
  • Spanking the monkey which is a euphemism for male masturbation.
  • On the streets is a euphemism for either prostitution or for homelessness.
  • He is getting on is another euphemism for growing old.
  • Meet your maker is another euphemism for death.
  • Economically disadvantaged is a euphemism for someone who is poor.
  • Economical is a euphemism for something that is cheap in price.
  • Pre-loved is a euphemism for something that is second hand or previous owner, like a car for example.
  • An adult beverage is a euphemism for alcoholic drinks.
  • He has had one too many is a euphemism to say that he is drunk.
  • You didn’t quite make the cut is a euphemism meaning that you are not good enough.
  • Being with child is a euphemism for being pregnant.
  • She is in the family way is another euphemism for being pregnant.
  • Taken early retirement is a euphemism to say that one was fired from their job.
  • Ethnic cleansing which is a euphemism for genocide.
  • Pushing up daisies which is a euphemism to say that someone is dead.

Examples of Euphemisms Used in Literature

Very often writers will include euphemism in their work in order to create a less offensive phrase which will still carry the same meaning. We will now take a look at some of the times in which euphemism has been used in plays, poetry, songs and more.

  • He ploughed her and then she cropped.” is a euphemism which means they had sex and she became pregnant. This is taken from the play Anthony and Cleopatra written by William Shakespeare.
  • In another play, Othello, Shakespeare uses euphemism to once again talk about the act of sex, where he described it as “making the beast with two backs.”
  • Writer Thomas Hardy uses euphemism to refer to death in his poem Afterwards, where he says “where the present time has latched itself on my tremulous stay.”
  • Hardy also uses more euphemism to talk about dying in the same poem, this time he writes the line “if I am to pass in some nocturnal darkness.
  • In Love eternal by J R Ward, we see an example of euphemism in the following phrase. “I tend to see myself as an outcome engineer.” In this particular line, the phrase outcome engineer is a euphemism for someone who is manipulating.
  • My mother passed away some time ago.” this is taken from a text by Steve Allen in which he is using the euphemism passed away to refer to the act of dying.
  • In the poem entitled Dropping the euphemism, the author, Bob Hicok uses a euphemism to refer to being fired, he writes “when I tell you that I have to lay you off.”


In summary, euphemism is used to alter a phrase or word in order to make it less offensive to the reader or the listener. The word is phrase is replaced by something which still holds the same meaning but will sound much more pleasant.

Euphemism is used often in daily speech and can be found on many occasions in the written text such as poetry or books.

Euphemism Infographic