There's a great word I discovered long ago that means using emotionally charged or unfairly pejorative language to describe a situation when there is a neutral word or phrase that could communicate the idea just as easily.

This may not be the best example, but a word to describe writing "Hillary and her cronies" instead of writing "Hillary and her advisers". I even used it in conversation a few times, but then forgot it! So frustrating, because it's a great word that comes in very handy in (e.g.) political or religious debates.

Any guesses?

  • 1
    probably-related question: english.stackexchange.com/questions/236044/…
    – Hellion
    Commented Sep 16, 2016 at 18:27
  • 1
    hyperbole?  rhetoric? Commented Sep 16, 2016 at 18:46
  • Your examples, "cronies" and "advisers", are both nouns but your OP indicates that the word you are trying to recall is an adjective or a verb. Please clarify. Commented Sep 16, 2016 at 20:28
  • "Barbed" comments? Commented Sep 16, 2016 at 20:30
  • @PeterPoint I'm not suggesting that the word I'm looking for should be plugged in for either "cronies" or "advisers". I'm just looking for a word that would characterize using "cronies" when "advisers" would've worked just as well, and without the negative connotation. Commented Sep 16, 2016 at 21:19

5 Answers 5


Sounds like it might be dysphemism:


A derogatory or unpleasant term used instead of a pleasant or neutral one, such as “loony bin” for “mental hospital.”

The opposite of euphemism


This matches up pretty well with your description of "using emotionally charged or unfairly pejorative language".

Also, you mention in a comment that "This was an obscure word - one of those dictionary.com words of the day"; I'm not sure about "word of the day", but dysphemism is number 10 on Merriam-Webster's list of "10 Fancy Words for Fancy Talk".

  • Thanks @1006a! I didn't have the "A-HA!" moment I expected to have when I saw your suggestion, but that honestly might be the word. At the very least, it will do for future episodes of "fancy talk" on my part :) Commented Sep 17, 2016 at 14:02


Definition 2 (especially of speech or writing) arousing or intended to arouse angry or violent feelings.

"inflammatory slogans"

synonyms: provocative, incendiary, inflaming, inciting, agitating, stirring, rousing, provoking, fomenting, rabble-rousing, seditious, subversive, mutinous;


Perhaps it is melodramatic language.


melodramatic adjective

: emotional in a way that is very extreme or exaggerated : extremely dramatic or emotional



Simple Definition of sensationalize : to describe or show something in a way that makes it seem more shocking than it really is Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Perhaps you are just looking for the verb "to color" in the sense of writing using a biased language in order to manipulate the readers' opinion, i.e. to propagandize.

  • To use "colorful language" in reference to someone's spoken language would suggest the use of profane language in British English. Might that be colourful? Commented Sep 17, 2016 at 23:22
  • Yes, Sir Peter, profanity is the most colorful of all expository styles. Commented Sep 18, 2016 at 0:27

Derogatory: detracting from the character or standing of something/someone. disparaging or slanderous remarks. — Merriam-Webster

synonyms: defamatory, libelous, slanderous

Ad hominem: Latin for "to the man" or "to the person", short for argumentum ad hominem, it is a type of logical fallacy, where during an argument or debate, you start making personal attacks directed against a person or that person's character, rather than towards the object or subject of debate or the issues at hand. — Wikipedia. Subject to the terms of the the creative commons cc-by-sa 3.0 license. Mirror.

Polemics: the art or practice of engaging in controversial debate or dispute.
                              — Oxford Living Dictionaries

Also, possibly: Abusive language, Mischaracterization (of events or a person).

And, here are a bunch of other, more esoteric words that you probably didn't mean:

Denigration: The action of unfairly criticizing someone or something. — Oxford Living Dictionaries

Vituperation: Bitter and abusive language. — The Oxford English Mini Dictionary, Eighth Edition

Scurrilous: Making or spreading scandalous claims about someone with the intention of damaging their reputation. — Oxford Living Dictionaries

Traduce: Speak badly of or tell lies about (someone) so as to damage their reputation
                     — The Oxford Dictionary of Difficult Words, 2004

Enmity: The state or feeling of being actively opposed or hostile to someone or something.
                              — Oxford Living Dictionaries

Invective: Insulting, abusive, or highly critical language. —The Oxford Dictionary of English, 2010

Lambaste: Criticize (someone or something) harshly — The Oxford Dictionary of English, 2010

Harangue: A lengthy and aggressive speech or lecture — The Oxford Dictionary of English, 2010

Vilification: To vilify, to make someone the villain, abusively disparaging speech or writing.
                         — The Oxford Dictionary of English, 2010

Antipathy: A deep-seated feeling of dislike. — The Oxford Dictionary of English, 2010


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