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the replacement of coarse or offensive words and expressions with less offensive ones or of certain names with conventional designations. Euphemisms are the result of lexical taboos imposed by various prejudices, superstitions, and religious beliefs on the use of the names for specific objects and phenomena in life, thus necessitating other means of expression.

In the early stages of social development of many Indo-European peoples, the names of various animals were euphemisms. Thus, the Russian word medved’ (“bear”) is an artificially created compound meaning “honey-eater”; it replaced an earlier word, which was placed under taboo because of mythological beliefs. Among professional hunters the word medved’ subsequently underwent a second taboo and was replaced with new euphemisms, such as khoziain (“master”), mokhnach (“hairy one”), and lomaka (“bone breaker”). When taboos are rooted in superstition and prejudice, euphemisms arise for the words for death and illnesses. Thus, Russian umer (“he died”) is replaced with otpravilsia k praotsam (“he went to join his forefathers”), otdal bogu dushu (“he gave his soul to god”), or prikazal dolgo zhit’ (“he ordered a long life”).

In a civilized society one of the principal causes for the use of euphemisms is etiquette, which bans the use of coarse or indecent expressions. Thus, instead of saying “you are lying,” one says “you are inventing things,” “you are mistaken,” or “you are not entirely correct.” Physicians often use Latin names for illnesses or special medical terms: in Russian, “cancer” and “tbc” (both spelled with Latin letters) may be used for the standard Russian terms rak and tuberkulez; smert’ (“death”) may be replaced by letal’nyi iskhod (“fatal outcome”). In modern societies, euphemisms are also used to impose censorship on the revelation of military and state secrets. In such cases the proper names of countries, cities, and military units are replaced by letters and conventional designations, such as “N” and “Nth,” or by descriptive expressions, such as “a neighboring power.”

Some jargons, in addition to embellishments and euphemisms, also use reverse euphemisms, or dysphemisms, which involve the replacement of neutral expressions with coarser, more familiar, or more vulgar ones. Thus, Russian dat’ duba (literally, “to give the oak”), sygrat’ v iashchik (literally, “to play the box”), and skopytit’sia (literally, “to be knocked off one’s feet”) may be used for the neutral umeret’ (“to die”). Such substitutions sometimes serve the purpose of disguising the meaning of conversations likely to be overheard.


Reformatskii, A. A. Vvedenie v iazykoznanie, 4th ed. Moscow, 1967.
Bonfante, G. “Etudes sur le tabou dans les langues indoeuropéennes.” In the collection Mélanges de linguistique offerts à Charles Bally. Geneva, 1939.


References in periodicals archive ?
After an army reunion tonight, an emotional Gary heads straight to Tina''s for what the Corrie press office are euphemistically calling "comfort".
Cho made the remarks a day after a group of eight former South Korean "comfort women," as the former sex slaves are euphemistically known, filed a defamation complaint against the Japanese rock band with the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office.
Indian negotiators have proposed what is euphemistically called "creative language" to address Japan's core concern - of New Delhi committing itself to no further nuclear tests.
Just yesterday Shuaa Capital rather euphemistically announced "a reduction of administrative expenses, the amalgamation and further alignment of departments, a recalibration of budgets and a significant headcount reduction.
The voucher proposal, euphemistically dubbed the Parental Choice and Taxpayer Savings Scholarship Program, would extend vouchers for private school tuition to families using a formula tied to the income standards for reduced-price lunches.
Apple euphemistically acknowledged Samsung Galaxy's might when Apple recently filed a lawsuit against Samsung charging it of replicating its iPad, iPhone and iPod designs in the Galaxy series of Android devices.
They also used manure from the animals as well as various grass cuttings from neighbors to make what was euphemistically referred to as an "effluence digester" to produce their own power.
I WONDER if D Bell from Hexham could be so kind as to inform us if his proposed idea for euphemistically named 'work camps' are a new brand of 'work camp' or the old Nazi version?
United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Richard Falk, who presented his latest report to the UN Human Rights Council, said that "Israeli government's support for settlers' actions illustrates the institutional and systematic discrimination against the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem by Israel, as well as the ongoing Israeli efforts to create what are euphemistically called 'facts on the ground' for the annexation of East Jerusalem".
True enough, and just like many other welfare-state benefits, unemployment insurance--as the dole is euphemistically known--is not means tested.
We have a Department of War, now euphemistically called Department of Defense, which functions on the basis of achieving peace by military oppression.
Mashreq said that it has undergone what it euphemistically described as "a rightsizing process" to reflect reduced market activity and that four per cent of its workforce have been made redundant.