What is a word that means to say in a positive sense? For instance, when writers say that a person was sexually assaulted instead of saying raped.

Or people use let go instead of fired.

What is that called?

  • 2
    I don't think sexually assaulted is particularly positive.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Jul 20, 2012 at 13:42
  • Also, 'sexually assaulted' covers more than just 'raped'.
    – Mitch
    Jul 20, 2012 at 13:47
  • I think these words/phrases soften the thrust/intent of the original. As the others have mentioned, sexual assault does not fall in this category. In any event, assault is a pretty strong word; there's no couching there. Jul 20, 2012 at 14:26
  • @KitFox That depends who's doing it.
    – Jay
    Jul 20, 2012 at 16:43

3 Answers 3


Such a usage is called a Euphemism.

"A figure of rhetoric by which an unpleasant or offensive thing is described or referred to by a milder term" (Chambers)


A euphemism.

(Note, though, that sexual assault is a crime distinct from rape.)

  • 1
    In most jurisdictions, "sexual assault" is the catch-all, ranging from a Roman Butt-Pinch to the most brutal instances of what we used to call "rape". "Aggravated sexual assault" covers the more severe end of the spectrum. Jul 20, 2012 at 14:00
  • Well, it irks me when the media uses this euphemism when writing about a rape. We as a cultured have become too sensitized. Also, this is the ugliest of acts, which people, if not careful, can confuse a situation as being, "not as bad" when they read about it through the use of euphemisms.
    – Marty
    Jul 20, 2012 at 14:52
  • I Thank all of you for the reminder. I always forget that word. I agree with everything everyone has said.
    – Marty
    Jul 20, 2012 at 14:55

A slang term is "sugar-coating the [bitter] pill."

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