The Ultimate Guide to Euphemisms (Definition + Examples)

January 21, 2023

5 min read

A woman with long brown hair laughs as she sits next to two other friends in a restaurant

If you’re not sure what a euphemism is, you’re not alone. But chances are, you’ve used one yourself before (they’re that common). 

Dive into the world of euphemisms. We’ll tell you everything you need to know about them, including what exactly they are and helpful everyday examples. 

What Is a Euphemism?

A euphemism is an expression — and a type of figurative language — that can be used to soften harsh language. It can also be used in place of a potentially offensive word or term.

Types of Euphemisms

There are multiple types of euphemisms, including: 

  • Abstraction: Used to distract from embarrassing or troublesome truths
  • Indirection: Used to describe actions that could be considered “explicit” 
  • Litotes: Used to soften a concept using a double negative
  • Mispronunciation: Used to pronounce a potentially offensive word differently
  • Modification: Used to change a potentially offensive noun into an adjective
  • Personification: Used to give human qualities to a noun
  • Slang: Vocabulary used within a social group  

Below, we’ll give examples of each of these types. 

Euphemism Examples

There are tons of euphemism examples that can be used in speech. For example, you could say “make love” instead of “sex.” Even though the word sex isn’t inherently bad or offensive, “make love” can soften the language a bit, depending on the audience. 

Euphemism examples by type include: 

  • Abstraction: Saying “passed away” instead of “died”
  • Indirection: Like the above example of saying “make love” instead of “sex”
  • Litotes: Saying “you’re not unintelligent” 
  • Mispronunciation: Saying “cripes” instead of “Christ”
  • Modification: Saying “They has stupid beliefs” instead of “They’re stupid”
  • Personification: Calling a period a “visit from Aunt Flo”
  • Slang: Like an American saying “she’s pissed” to mean someone is angry whereas, to a British person, that would mean she’s drunk

Some euphemisms are more popular than others. 

Some of the most popular euphemisms you’ll hear include: 

  • “You’re being let go” instead of “you’re fired”
  • “Adult beverages” instead of types of alcohol
  • “Smoking a joint” instead of “smoking marijuana” 
  • “Bun in the oven” instead of “being pregnant” 
  • “Lose your lunch” instead of “vomit” 
  • “Questionable idea” instead of “a bad idea”

British euphemisms

There are many common British euphemisms used on a daily basis. Lots of comedians also purposely use British euphemisms in their set for a bit of quirkiness.

For example, some of the most common British euphemisms you can experiment with using include:

  • “A bit bonkers” to mean something silly or weird
  • “Chuffed to bits” to express being really excited or happy about something
  • “A bit of a kerfluffle” to signify a fight or disagreement
  • “A bit nippy out,” meaning that it’s freezing outside
  • “Gone a bit pear-shaped” to describe something that’s not gone according to plan
  • “Gone a bit batty” to describe someone who might be acting odd or out of character

Euphemisms for death

When it comes to death, people often quote British euphemisms. For example, two of the most common euphemisms for death include “kicked the bucket” and “popped a clog.”

Other euphemisms for death that you might hear include:

  • “Shuffling off this mortal coil,” as Shakespeare wrote
  • “Met their maker,” which references a divine creator
  • “Joined their ancestors”
  • “Returned to the earth,” which refers to decomposition
  • “Passed away,” arguably the most common death euphemism
  • “Crossed the rainbow bridge”
  • “Went to sleep for the last time”

Euphemisms for sex

Because having intercourse is a well-known taboo all over the world, there are plenty of existing euphemisms for sex people use every day.

Some of the most common euphemisms for sex that you might’ve heard include:

  • “The birds and the bees”
  • “Getting frisky with the biscuit” (yet another British euphemism)
  • “Having relations”
  • “Sleeping with”
  • “Doing the deed”
  • “Making love”
  • “Getting busy”

Euphemisms for pooping

Some of the most well-known euphemisms for pooping or going to the toilet also overlap as British euphemisms, such as “going to the loo.” Other popular euphemisms for pooping include phrases like:

  • “Having a cuppa” (another British euphemism)
  • “Doing a poo”
  • “Going #2”
  • “Dropping a log”
  • “Visiting the porcelain throne”
  • “Dropping a deuce”

How to Use AI to Practice Euphemisms

One of the best ways to get used to using euphemisms in daily speech is to practice them. However, it’s not always easy finding a willing conversation partner. That’s where Yoodli comes in.

Yoodli is an AI-powered conversation coach that can take your skills to the next level. You can easily practice using them in a judgement-free zone with its conversation simulator.

A screenshot of Yoodli's conversation simulator, where you can practice euphemisms
If you want to get comfortable using euphemisms in speech, try practicing with Yoodli first.

It works like this. You’ll choose a topic, a conversation partner, and a personality for that simulated partner to start chatting. You spend about 30 seconds responding and the AI conversation coach will analyze your response and formulate small talk to keep the conversation going. It’s the perfect place to practice throwing in a few euphemisms.

After the conversation, you’ll get all the data around your speech, like how fast you talk, how loud you were, your word choice and filler word usage, and even your body language.

To learn more about this conversation coach, check out our explainer below:

You can practice using euphemisms in a judgement-free zone with Yoodli.

Why Are Euphemisms Important?

Euphemisms are important because they’re a specific tool to tailor your language to your audience. For example, if a coworker’s parent dies, using a euphemism in a condolence card like, “I was sorry to hear your father passed away” is often more appropriate than “I’m sorry your dad died.” 

Remember though: not all euphemisms are inclusive. That’s why it’s very important to practice and ensure you’re not accidentally using non-inclusive language. For example, you would never want to say someone is “mentally challenged” instead of using first-person language, such as they’re “living with mental illness.” 

If you’re not used to using euphemisms, it’s a good idea to get some practice in. Practicing impromptu speaking with a speech prompt via Yoodli is a great option. If you need a few ideas to get you going, try answering these prompts in a recording on Yoodli: 

  • What’s your favorite childhood memory? 
  • What’s one of the most important lessons you’ve learned?
  • What are the top three things you’re best at?
  • What’s your opinion on the emergence of self-driving cars and their safety?
  • If you could give advice to your younger self, what would it be?

Try to see if you can use some appropriate euphemism examples in your recording.

The Key Takeaway

Euphemisms are a popular form of figurative language that you can use in everyday speech. Learning how to use them properly is a great public speaking skill to have. 

Just be sure you’re being inclusive and not accidentally using non-inclusive or blatantly offensive euphemisms. 


Start practicing with Yoodli.

Getting better at speaking is getting easier. Record or upload a speech and let our AI Speech Coach analyze your speaking and give you feedback.

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