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Upper Int : What are euphemisms?

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'She was happy to hear that there would be no lay offs at her company.'

A euphemism is a word or phrase that we use instead of a more direct, unpleasant word. Euphemisms are used when we talk about difficult subject matters like death, for example.

It is sometimes too direct to say 'My grandmother died.' It is much gentler to say 'My grandmother passed away.' 'Pass away' is therefore a euphemism for 'die'.

Euphemisms are commonly used in newspapers and TV news.

Here we take a look at some other examples of useful euphemisms:

between jobs

Meaning: to be  unemployed. Basically, it means that someone does not have a job and is not a student either.

'Where do I work? Actually, I'm between jobs at the moment'

the departed

Meaning: the dead; dead people.

'In Japan the departed are cremated and not buried'.

economical with the truth

Meaning: not to tell the truth; to be a liar.

'The politician had been economical with the truth when he talked about his earnings.'

getting on / getting up there

Meaning: becoming old

'Now that I'm getting on, I don't like my birthdays.'

intimate relationship

Meaning: to have sex

'The president admitted to having an intimate relationship with his secretary.'

lay off

Meaning: to make redundant;to fire;to sack
This expression is both a verb and a noun. It is used when someone loses their job; they are made to stop working by the company.

'Softec plans to lay off 200 workers.'
'Many lay offs are expected as the company sees profits fall.'


Meaning: to kill
This verb is usually used to describe killings in a war.

'The army neutralised 150 enemy fighters.'

senior citizens

Meaning: the elderly; old people

'Senior citizens suffer the most during winter.'


Meaning: stupid people

'Frank can be a bit slow at times. He has trouble following his teachers lessons.'


How to use 'understatement''

  • A funeral service for all the ___ will be held on Sunday.

  • The workers protested about the recent ___.

  • Jenny's new boyfriend looks like he's really ___.

  • Her teachers think she is ___ and would like her to move to a special school.

  • Don't believe what he tells you. He's often ___.

  • I'm ___ at the moment, but I have a job interview tomorrow.

  • I heard that he had ___ with his best friends wife!