25 Common English Euphemisms

25 Common English Euphemisms to Deal With Delicate Situations in English

Today, you’re going to learn 25 common euphemism phrases in English. While you’re here, check out 28 Phrases to Feel Comfortable in English Conversations.

Euphemisms are words (or phrases) we can use to talk about negative stuff without sounding too negative.

We use them because we don’t want to use a particular negative word or phrase.

They make people feel better, and that means we offend people less.

So let’s look at 25 common English euphemisms.


Euphemisms for people

English Euphemisms for negative things about people

You know this situation. You’re talking about someone you know.

And you basically want to talk about how stupid they are. Or how fat. Or how short.

But you don’t want to be rude, right?

These will help:

  • He’s big boned. — He’s fat.
  • She’s horizontally challenged.* — She’s fat, too.
  • He’s vertically challenged.* — He’s short.
  • She’s between jobs. — She’s unemployed.
  • She’s getting on. — She’s old.
  • He’s not the sharpest pencil in the box. — He’s kind of stupid. Not his fault — he just is.
  • He doesn’t suffer fools gladly. — He’s rude and can be pretty unkind.
  • She’s on the streets. — She’s homeless.

*These phrases are a little light and funny.


Euphemisms about getting fired

English Euphemisms for being fired

These are phrases that you wouldn’t like to say, and that you’d hate to hear even more.

They all mean “You’re fired” or “You’ve lost your job. Now go away.”

  • We’re going to have to let you go.
  • Have you considered early retirement? — only for older people
  • I’m afraid you’ve been made redundant. — This one isn’t as bad, as it means your job doesn’t exist anymore. You’ve probably been
  • replaced by a computer.


Euphemisms about WAR!

English Euphemisms for war

War — a big topic for an English language blog, right?

It’s a horrible and traumatic thing, and very difficult to talk about.

It’s also a deeply political thing, too.

I think those are the two main reasons we have so many euphemisms for war. People don’t like talking about the difficult reality, but also governments prefer to use “softer” words to make their decisions sound less violent.

If you read any English language newspaper and turn to an article about war, you’ll find some of these military euphemisms:

  • Collateral damage – When an attack kills innocent people (or damages homes, hospitals, schools, etc.).
  • Armed intervention – This simply means “military attack.”
  • Extraordinary rendition – This is when an army takes someone away without going through any legal system.
  • Friendly fire – This is when an army kills people on its own side, usually by accident.


Euphemisms for death

English Euphemisms for death

It’s always a difficult subject to talk about, so it’s no surprise that we have some euphemisms to talk about death.

Here are the most common ones. All of these mean “she’s died.”

  • She’s passed on.
  • She’s passed away.
  • She’s met her maker.
  • We’ve lost her.
  • She’s been put to sleep / put down. — for describing when a pet has to be killed by the vet


Euphemisms for “bad”

English Euphemisms for bad things

It’s good to have lots of different ways of saying “bad,” right?

For example, there are some adjectives that make “bad” even more direct, like “awful,” “terrible,” “horrible,” etc.

But what if you want to make it more polite and less direct?

  • It wasn’t up to scratch. — It wasn’t good enough.
  • It left a lot to be desired. — It was pretty bad and unsatisfying.
  • That was a questionable idea. — There are problems with this idea.
  • How was the trip? It was … Meh — How was the trip? It wasn’t that good at all. Not terrible but not good.

OK. You can now use these euphemisms to sound less direct, and more polite and diplomatic.

You can also understand more of what on earth they’re talking about on the news.

So here are three sentences — can you make them less direct and more polite?

  1. “I’m afraid your work is not as good as it should be.”
  2. “Maybe they won’t fit you. You’re a bit fat.”
  3. “I’ve got to warn you about my cousin. He’s such a rude guy.”

Write your answers in the comments!

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43 thoughts on “25 Common English Euphemisms

  1. #4
    Don’t say “I’m dying for a cuppa” to Russians not adding “figuratively” it’ll be a complete turkey. 🙂

      1. Latecomer…..meaning someone who arrives late? If so, I had a boss that used to say good afternoon if arrived late in the mornings. With a smile of course. 🙂

          1. We always say to someone who is late, “next time don’t forget to set your alarm.”

  2. Hi, Gabriel, I am Laura, nice to meet you. I’m from Colombia and I am 22 years old. Now I study laws at Universidad Católica de Colombia, in Bogotá city, but I want to learn English by my own means, because I consider that is something absolutely neccesary and important for my personal and professional development. I coincidentally came to your blog and I loved it, everything is very interesting and easy to understand, thanks to contribute in our learing process. Regards!

    1. Don’t worry, we don’t, it’s just some specific peopke who love sounding smart do. Most people talk really normally haha

  3. Hey, I love your website, I’m totally addicted to it! 🙂 I teach English in a primary school and I’m definitely going to use your techniques and tips in my lessons.
    However, there is just one little thing that bothers me (and I’m sorry for that, really!); I speak American English, not British. Not at all. I try to avoid it. Honestly, I can’t stand British English (but I LOVE you and your blog!! (: )
    And I also loved these phrases! Are they 100% British? Or do Americans also use some of these? Thank you for your work and useful tips! 🙂

    1. Ha ha. Thanks for your honesty!

      I do, indeed, speak British English (or at least one of the many types of British English).

      After having a quick re-read of the post (I did write it four years ago), I think these euphemisms are a bit of a mixed bag. Some of them are definitely quite British, but many of them are also universal. There are also a few that I’m not sure about.

      I’d say the best thing to do would to be run them by an American if you really want to avoid British English.

      Having said that, I’m not sure these terms “British English”/”American English” really apply in the modern world. The vast majority of English speakers are “non-native speakers,” meaning that the lines are getting more and more blurred.

      Also, there are loads of different varieties within the British/American English umbrellas. Some British varieties contain features that some American ones do, for example.

      In fact, I’m not even sure why you’re “picking a side,” so to speak. Can I ask why you avoid “British English?”

      Thanks for commenting! 🙂

  4. Very interesting! My hubby and I were talking about euphemisms when we read an article about suicide. So we decided to dig a little deeper and found this.

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