Figure Name euphemismus
Source Silva Rhetoricae (; JG Smith (1665) ("euphemismus"); Peacham (1593); Macbeth (1876)("euphemism," "smooth handle"); De Mille (1882) ("euphemism," "hypocorisma"); Waddy (1889)("euphemism"); Demetrius (1902) 195 ("euphemism"); Bullinger (1898) ("euphemismos; or, euphemy"); Johnson (1903) ("eupemism or euphuism"); Vickers (1989) ("euphemismos")
Earliest Source None
Synonyms euphemismos, euphemism, smooth handle, hypocorisma, euphemy, euphuism
Etymology from Gk. eu'-phee-mis'-mos from euphemizein "to use words of good omen" from eu "well" and pheemi "to speak"
Type Chroma
Linguistic Domain Lexicographic

1. Substituting a more favorable term for a pejorative or socially delicate term. (Silva Rhetoricae)

2. A fair or favourable kind of speech: a figure whereby a word of a good and bad signification is interpreted to the better part, &c.; Euphemismus, bona dictionis mutatio, seu favorabilis locutio, a good change of a word, or a fair kind of speech: derived from [e*] bene, well or pleasingly, and [phemi] dico, to speak; or from [euphemeo] faveo linguâ, aut bona verba dico, to favour in speech or to give pleasing word's. It is a fair kind of speech, or a modest way of expressing ones mind. A figure whereby in Scripture you shall finde a fair name put on a foul vice, and a word of a good and bad signification interpreted to the better part; and it is also when things (which would offend a most modest and chast ear) are vailed with Periphrasis, or circumlocution. (JG Smith)

3. Euphemismus in Latine boni ominis captatio, that is, a Prognostication of good, and it is a forme of speech, by which the Orator either interpreteth an uncertaine thing to the better part, or else declareth before that some good thing shall come to passe afterward, which he speaketh from divine revelation, or else collecteth it by some likely signes and tokens. (Peacham)

4. Euphemism, or the Smooth Handle, is a figure much employed by the peculiarly polite, who wish to convey a harsh truth as gently as they can. (Macbeth)

5 a) 133. EUPHEMISM.
Euphemism is a form of periphrasis. It is the mention of disagreeable things by agreeable names. (De Mille)

5 b) 134. HYPOCORISMA.
A certain kind of euphemism is sometimes called "hypocorisma." This is the application of decorous names to actions or things which are base or bad. An immense number of colloquialisms and slang expressions consist of this softening down of evil and villany. (De Mille)

6.(3) By euphemism.
This change is similar to "denying the contrary," but its special use is to avoid the harshness of a direct statement. Euphemism means "soft-speaing." (Waddy)

7. Whereby a man makes inauspicious
things appear auspicious and impious acts appear pious. (Demetrius)

8. Change of what is unpleasant for pleasant... Euphemy is a figure by which a harsh or disagreeable expression is changed for a pleasant and agreeable one; or, where an offensive word or expression is changed for a gently one; or an indelicate word for a modest word. This figure is not, strange to say, generally used as with us of the ordinary functions of nature, which are often exaggerated by civilization and fashion into a false modesty. The Scriptures use very plain language on plain subjects: but there are beautiful Euphemies used where delicate feelings or sentiments are affected. (Bullinger, 684)

9. Euphemism or Euphuism.—This figure consists in a choice of words intended to avoid a disagreeable impression that might be produced if the idea were conveyed bluntly in the usual or more specific terms. (Johnson, 100)

10.Euphemismos, substituting a more favourable for a pejorative term. (Vickers 494)


1. In Shakespeare's King Richard II Richard inquires after John of Gaunt:

King Richard: What says he?
Northumberland: Nay, nothing, all is said.
His tongue is now a stringless instrument [meaning "he died"]
—Shakespeare, Richard II 2.1.147-149 (Silva Rhetoricae)

3. An example of the Apostle Paul: I exhort you to be of good courage, for there shalbe no losse of any mans life among you, but of the ship onely. (Peacham)

2. Thus urine is vailed with a Circumlocution, water of the feet. (JG Smith)

4. The Latin word for thief is fur; so they called a thief "a man of three letters." (Macbeth)

5 a) Examples may be found in such words and phrases as, "If anything should happen," to indicate "death;" "he was unable to meet his engagements," for "he failed;" "untidy," for "dirty;" "unfortunate," for "dishonest." (De Mille)

6. Thus:
Direct- He is cowardly.
Euphemism- He could hardly be called a brave man. (Waddy)

7. 'We will seek the cooperation of the Victories for the war.' (Demetrius)

8. Judges 3:24. -"Surely he covereth his feet in his summer chamber." When an Eastern stoops down, his garment fall over and cover his feet. Hence the Euphemy, the meaning of which is given in the margin. See also 1 Sam. 24:3. (Bullinger, 685)

9. One of the simplest is that of the prudish woman who spoke of "the limbs of the piano." A more striking one was originated by the wife of a hod-carrier, who, being asked what was her husband's business, answered that he was "a descender and elevater." One of the most ghastly is Hamlet's remark in answer to an inquiry for Polonius, that he has gone to supper. Slang has many euphemisms. Thus, "It has gone where the woodbine twineth," i. e., up a spout, i. e., to the pawnshop,
which once was popular and in every-day use, but is now obsolete. One of the most ludicrous euphemisms is that of the pugilist, who calls his profession "the manly art of self-defense." (Johnson, 100)

10. Falstaff . . . when thou art king, let not us that are squires of the night's body
['we that take purses'] be call'd thieves of the day's beauty. Let us be Diana's
foresters, gentlemen of the shade, minions of the moon . . .
--Shakespeare, Henry IV, 1.2.13ff. (Vickers 494)

Kind Of Opposition
Part Of
Related Figures figures of substitution, figures of moderation, ominasio
Confidence Unconfident
Last Editor Daniel Etigson
Confidence Unconfident
Editorial Notes
Reviewed No