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What are euphemisms?

A List of EuphemismsEnglish has a wealth of euphemisms. They are coded expressions that we use when whatever we are referring to is considered inappropriate for the circumstances or when we are embarrassed or uncomfortable with the literal version. As one might expect, many euphemisms relate to death or to what a true euphemist would refer to as 'the trouser region'.

Euphemisms go back to the beginnings of the language but the word euphemism itself wasn't defined until Thomas Blount included it in his Glossographia in 1656:

Euphemism, a good or favourable interpretation of a bad word.

Many euphemisms are old but new ones continue to be coined: for every Shakespearian 'beast with two backs' there's a 20th century 'knee trembler'.

The euphemisms that people have adopted in order to avoid saying 'Jesus' or 'God' are called minced oaths.

Here's a select list of common euphemisms...

A bunch of fives

A little of what you fancy does you good

An offer he can't refuse

Be excused

Bite the dust

Blow chunks

Bought the farm

Breathe one's last (Die)

Broad in the beam

Brown trousers (Defecate through fear)

Built for comfort not speed (Fat)

Bun in the oven - A

Carey Street - On

Carnal knowledge

Cash in your chips (Die)

Cement shoes (Dead)

Change into your brown trousers (Defecate through fear)

Chutney ferret (Homosexual)

Collateral damage

Colour up

Come to Jesus (Die)

Comfort woman (Prostitute)

Concrete shoes - Put on your (Die)

Cor blimey

Cross over to the other side (Die)

Dear John (Break up message)

Depart this life (Die)

Departed - The (A dead person)

Differently abled

Do your business

Drop off the perch (Die)

Economical with the truth

Eff off

Eternal rest (Death)

Ethnic cleansing (Racial genocide)

Excuse my French

Fall asleep

Fall off the back of a lorry

Fate worse than death

First base (Kissing)

Fourth base (Sexual intercourse)

Full figured (Fat)


Gardening leave (Unemployment)

Gee whiz

Gentleman friend (Lover)

Get your leg over (Have sex)

Give up the ghost (die)

Go all the way (Have sex)

Go down for the third time (Die)

Go over to the other side

Hankie pankie

Happy event - A (Birth)

Have it away

Hide the sausage (Sex)

Hot to trot (Sexually excited)

House of ill repute

In an interesting condition

In reduced circumstances

In the club

In the family way

In trouble

Fallen off the back of a lorry

Kick the bucket

Knee trembler (Sex in a standing position)

Knocked up

Knocking shop (Brothel)

Lady of the night

Laid off (Made unemployed)

Leave the room (Visit the lavatory)

Leg over (Sex)

Lie back and think of England (Have sex)

Light in the loafers (Homosexual)

Like the Dickens

Lose your lunch (Vomit)

Make hay (Have sex)

Making whoopee (Having sex)

Marital aid

Meat packer (Homosexual)

Meet your maker (Die)

Missing in action (Dead)

Montezuma's revenge

Night soil

No longer with us (Dead)

Not tonight Josephine (Refusal of offer of sex)

On Carey Street (Bankrupt)

On the job (Having sex)

One off the wrist (Masturbation)

One sandwich short of a picnic

Pass on

Pass over to the other side

Paying guest

Peg out

Pillow biter (Homosexual)

Point Percy at the porcelain

Pop your clogs

Praying at the porcelain altar

Private parts

Put on the wooden overcoat

Put to sleep

Restricted growth (Short)

Road apples

Roll in the hay (Sex)

Rumpy pumpy

See a man about a dog

Shoot blanks (Be sterile)

Shuffle off this mortal coil

Shuffle off to Buffalo (Die)

Slap and tickle (Sex)

Sleep around (Be promiscuous)

Sleep with

Smallest room in the house

Snatched from us (Died)

Something for the weekend sir?

Spend a penny

Spend more time with my family

Supreme sacrifice (Death)

Technicolor yawn

The f-word

The beast with two backs (A couple engaged in sex)

The birds and the bees (Sexual reproduction)

The call of nature

The love that dare not speak its name

The smallest room in the house

The wrong side of the blanket

Tired and over-emotional

Turn a trick (Have sex for money)

Turn up your toes (Die)

Up the duff

Visit the ladies room

Visually challenged (Short-sighted)

Wearing your apron high (Pregnant)




Well fed (Fat)

Wham bam and thank you ma'am (Brief sex)

With child

Worse for wear

Gary Martin - the author of the website.

By Gary Martin

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

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