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A euphemism is a word or phrase that is used in place of a disagreeable or offensive term. When a phrase becomes a euphemism, its literal meaning is often pushed aside. (For instance, in the English language, we have bathrooms with no facilities for bathing, and we rarely use the word gay to describe a cheerful demeanor.) Euphemisms can eventually become taboo words themselves.

Many euphemisms fall into one or more of these categories:

  • Foreign terms (derriere, copulation)
  • Abbreviations (F--- you, SOB)
  • Abstractions (it, the situation, go)
  • Indirections (behind, unmentionables)
  • Understatements (visually challenged)
  • Longer words (perspire, urinate)

See also politeness, doublespeak.