The comments in an older question of mine on E.S.E leave an issue unresolved: What does one call the situation in which a taboo concept is referred to as being a specific case of a more general nonvulgar concept?

The specific example that I would like to address is the Hebrew verb לדעת. This verb has several meanings. One meaning is to have knowledge of. Another meaning is to have sexual relations with. One could argue that the latter is a what for the former?

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    As Cicero said "there is nothing so absurd but some philosopher has said it", cornbread ninja says "there is nothing so taboo but some religious construct has decided it so". Mar 12, 2012 at 15:54
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    -1 since I'm allergic to "Please see the linked question for an example usage, as it is quite the example that I would like to improve." Please clearly state in this question your question. Mar 12, 2012 at 16:26
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    I can't understand how this question title relates to the text itself, but the answer to the title is obviously dysphemism, as given in an answer to the earlier question I've linked to there. Mar 12, 2012 at 16:27
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    @dotancohen: Hmm. The link words for me. Here it is again. btw I think the "expression" you're looking for is just "to have sexual relations with" is an explicit phrasing of the euphemism "to know", if indeed that second form can validly be called a "euphemism". Mar 12, 2012 at 17:10
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    dotancohen, I reversed my downvote. Mar 12, 2012 at 20:14

2 Answers 2


As FumbleFingers points out, one 'opposite' of euphemism is


which means a word sounding much worse or more vulgar than the more canonical word for the concept.

But 'opposite' can really go in many directions. Another counterpart to 'euphemism', the one that you seek, is

vulgarity, taboo word, or profanity.

These are words for the concept of 'the word that is being given a euphemism'.


I think we're missing the crux of this situation: To know is clearly a euphemism for to have sexual relations with. The latter is the taboo topic that the euphemism refers to.

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    That might be the case in English, but in (Biblical) Hebrew the words for "to know" and "to have sex with" are homonyms. It is not an euphemism. Hebrew has much fewer words than English and it is not uncommon to have homonyms when the fields of discussion are disparate enough that there will be no confusion.
    – dotancohen
    Mar 14, 2012 at 17:41

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