How not to offend anyone in English: 50 euphemisms for all occasions

Probably, English will never cease to amaze us. Besides the fact that English is considered to be the language of synonyms and perfectly justifies this status, it is unlikely that in any of the languages ​​of the world one can find as many euphemisms as in English.

This is mainly due to the mentality: the British and Americans diligently avoid using words that, in their opinion, can somehow hurt the interlocutor, and often choose such convoluted expressions instead of them that it is very difficult for a foreigner to understand what was originally meant .


The Cambridge Dictionary defines a euphemism as “a word or phrase used to avoid the use of a rude or offensive human dignity of expression . As already mentioned, this is indeed the case: in 99% of cases, the English-speaking population of the world will say “disabled person” instead of “ disabled person” , the phrase “mentally retarded child” will be replaced by “special child” , the “stupid person” will respond as “mentally challenged man " , And noticing that you start to go bald, tactfully notice that " you are becoming a little thin on top .

In fact, the history of euphemisms in English originates after the Vietnam War, when many soldiers suffered the so-called shell shock - a combat psychiatric trauma, which was the result of various factors of the military situation. The fighters who received mental disorders were no longer able to wage hostilities and, moreover, suffered shell shock all their lives, which directly imposed restrictions on their ability to act.

Considering that English does not consider it permissible to use the words “psycho” in relation to mentally unhealthy people in view of a possible insult to their dignity, in the 1970s the euphemism used to this day for the first time: “post-traumatic syndrome” disorder . " And if at first this euphemism was used only in relation to soldiers experiencing the consequences of war, nowadays it can also be used to speak of any person suffering from a mental disorder after an event in his life.

Types of euphemisms

Today, English has a wide variety of different euphemisms, which are gradually settled in other languages, including Russian. So, the euphemism “African-American” ( “afro-american” ) instead of “Negro” came to us, as well as “move to another world” ( “to pass away” ) instead of “die” or “broad-boned” ( “big- boned " ) instead of" fat. "

Euphemisms in English can be divided into several types:

- Euphemisms used to soften the general meaning of the expression: for example, “relocation center” instead of “prison camp” (prison camp);
- Euphemisms that are used so that you can politely say something that can hurt the interlocutor: for example, “between jobs” instead of “unemployed” (unemployed).

The list of the most widely used euphemisms can be continued for a very long time: here “golden age” instead of “old age” (“old age”), “under the weather” instead of “sick” (sick, painful), “motivationally deficient” instead of “lazy” (lazy ).

About death

One way or another, lately euphemisms began to be used periodically and in completely opposite cases listed above: sometimes they are used for the purposes of sarcasm, as well as for the opportunity to speak not very seriously about serious issues. And if they are built in the same way (that is, they replace one word or expression with another), in this context, a euphemism may rather bear a somewhat cynical and slightly rude color: “bit the dust” and “bought the farm” instead of “died” ( ), or “blow chunks” instead of “vomited” (vomiting).

By the way, if we talk about "die" and "death", as well as death in general, it is worth noting that this is one of the most popular topics for euphemisms. As a rule, each of the parties tries to use the most tactful and neutral expressions in order not to accidentally offend the interlocutor's feelings or his point of view when it comes to issues such as death, religion, politics or various kinds of addictions.

As noted by one of the scientists, in this case, euphemisms are mainly used phrases that have the meaning of “sleep” or “go to an unknown place”: for example, “go to a better place” , “go under” , “sleep away” , "Pass into the next world" , "leave the land of the living" .

Moreover, in English, euphemisms can be used when it comes to murder - almost all of them are formed using the verb to put: “put on the spot” , “put to the sword” , “put to sleep” or “put against a wall " . Euphemisms associated with suicide often include self: “self-execution” , “self-violence” .

Religion and politics

There are also many euphemisms associated with religion in English. For example, “devil” can often be replaced with “black prince” or “black gentleman” , also often in euphemisms, when it comes to the devil, in addition to black, the adjective old is used: “old Roger” , “the old boy” .

The political sphere is also full of euphemisms. Thus, the word special traditionally refers to not entirely legal or inhuman actions: “special weapons” are often used instead of “nuclear weapons” (nuclear weapons), and the expression “special operations” , as a rule, implies secret and illegal frauds. “Strategic” politicians are often used when talking about any unsuccessful actions: for example, “strategic withdrawal” would mean a military defeat. And euphemisms containing people's ( “people's parties”, “people's republics” ) are often associated with an autocratic political regime.

Also, a lot of euphemisms in English are used when it comes to war: as a rule, in politics the word “war” is replaced by such euphemisms as “armed struggle”, “conflict”, “confrontation”, “incident”, “operation”.


The topic of addictions - alcohol, drugs, games and other types - is not complete without euphemisms. Given that reckless expressions, again, can impair human dignity, the use of euphemisms in this aspect is also widespread. Very often the word “addiction” is replaced with “weakness”: “weakness for the drink” implies alcoholism, and “weakness for the horses” means dependence on bets on horse racing. When it comes to drugs, heroin is often called “sugar”, “white lady”, “white girl” or “China white” , and instead of marijuana they say “mary jane” or “green grass” .

Euphemisms have long taken their rightful place in the English language and are only rooted in it day by day, appearing in both oral and written language, so it is important for English learners to understand and understand the features of their use: it will play an invaluable role in communication with an English-speaking interlocutor .

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