A euphemism is a word used to replace another worse-sounding word. For example, 'pass away' for 'die', 'battle fatigue' for 'shell shock', 'PTSD' for 'battle fatigue', often a word created to replace a taboo word.

A dysphemism is a bit of the opposite, a synonym that sounds -worse- than the original, for example, 'boneyard' for 'graveyard'.

But there are other directions to take in creating synonyms. Medicalese tends to euphemize to make things palatable, but often there are medical synonyms where the process seems to be more obfuscation or obscurantism than a euphemism. For example, 'urinate' is a perfectly neutral technical term, but it is not uncommon to see or hear the (exact) synonym 'micturate'. Unless I am misreading, there is no euphemizing going on, just hiding through a more obscure word.

What would the process/describing word be for synonyms that are in another register, colloquial vs. formal (though naturally there is a lot of overlap here with euphemism/dysphemism)?

So what I am looking for are synonyms for euphemism, that go in different directions than just good/bad.

  • @Robusto: exactly. actually...what are -those- words called?
    – Mitch
    Apr 21, 2011 at 15:53
  • 1
    I would not call PTSD a euphemism for 'battle fatigue'. It would be the technical or medical term for it.
    – Kevin
    Apr 21, 2011 at 16:20
  • @Kevin: OK, I see that (I was trying to give an example of euphemisms that get replaced by other euphemisms). Also, 'technical term' is a good example of what I'm looking for, one way of noting a synonym that has a slightly different but related meaning. And it is on a different dimension than 'formality' or taboo.
    – Mitch
    Apr 21, 2011 at 16:39
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    A technical term=jargon
    – horatio
    Apr 21, 2011 at 19:54
  • Wow, dysphemisms are cool. Jul 11, 2013 at 19:57

5 Answers 5


paranym, which is defined as

a word or words whose meaning is altered to conceal; an evasion; see euphemism (by Wordnik)


euphemism; word whose meaning altered to conceal evasion (by Phrontistery)

  • 1
    - this is exactly the kind of word I'm looking for... - but I can't seem to find it anywhere else - I'm not averse to a reasonable neologism for it.
    – Mitch
    Apr 21, 2011 at 15:55
  • @Mitch: paranym is not a neologism. Its OED entry first attests it way back in 1963, almost half a century ago. Sense 1 is as a near synonym, which is marked as rare. Sense 2 is A euphemistic word or phrase whose literal sense is contrary to the reality of what it refers to, used esp. to disguise or misrepresent the truth about something.
    – tchrist
    Apr 21, 2011 at 18:03
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    One might even say that a euphemism is a word used to conceal an invasion!
    – Karl
    Oct 1, 2021 at 14:24

General synonyms could be circumlocution, substitute or alternative. If you want to give the impression that the replacement term is nicer than the original, you can use polite term, understatement, genteelism (my personal favorite). If you're going the other way, i.e. using a more unpleasant alternative, that would be a dysphemism (exact antonym of euphemism). Though I can't think of any simple synonym of dysphemism, you could be talking about the slang term for X, the harsher term for, the rude term for

  • An Understatement can be a single word? I studied this recently and honestly I can't recall of single words, I thought it was an expression?
    – Alenanno
    Apr 21, 2011 at 15:35
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    @Alenanno: sure, 'tall' can be an understatement of 'gigantic', 'tree-like', 'atmospheric'. Of course, lots of understatements come out as longer phrases.
    – Mitch
    Apr 21, 2011 at 15:46
  • circumlocution
  • bowdlerism
  • code word
  • allusion

The best way to classify words along the lines you are considering is by connotation vs. denotation. For example, English provides a number of words for 'an olfactory experience': scent, fragrance, odor, perfume, smell, aroma, stench, etc. Ranking these words from positive to negative forms a continuum of synonyms.


A restatement refers to anything without regard to good or bad. Does that count?

  • That's a general term for any kind of expression from word size to sentence to paragraph, but not really particular to a word.
    – Mitch
    Apr 21, 2011 at 17:35

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