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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day

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Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.

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euphemism

August 7th, 2015

Episode 280 of 720 episodes

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 07, 2015 is: euphemism \YOO-fuh-miz-um\ noun : the substitution of an agreeable or inoffensive expression for one that may offend or suggest something unpleasant; also : the expression so substituted Examples: Aunt Helen would never say that someone had "died"; she preferred to communicate the unpleasant news with euphemisms like "passed on." "Jane Grigson is sometimes described as 'the food writer's food writer,' which is probably a euphemism for 'the food writer all other food writers would secretly like to be.' I'm sure I'm not alone in the wide-eyed admiration and green-eyed envy with which I read her work." Felicity Cloake, The New Statesman, July 9, 2015 Did you know? Euphemism derives from the Greek euphemos, which means "auspicious, sounding good." The first part of that root is the Greek prefix eu-, meaning "good." The second part is phēmē, a Greek word for "speech" that is itself a derivative of the verb phanai, meaning "to speak." Among the numerous linguistic cousins of euphemism on the eu- side of the family are eulogy, euphoria, and euthanasia; on the phanai side, its kin include prophet and aphasia (loss of the power to understand words).

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