AskDefine | Define dysphemism

Dictionary Definition

dysphemism n : an offensive or disparaging expression that is substituted for an inoffensive one; "his favorite dysphemism was to ask for axle grease when he wanted butter" [ant: euphemism]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. The use of a word or phrase to replace another and that is considered more offensive or more vulgar than the word or phrase it replaces.
  2. A word or phrase that is used to replace another in this way.

Usage notes

*bullshit for lies or nonsense


Extensive Definition

In language, both dysphemism (from the Greek “dys” δυς = non and “pheme'” φήμη = speech) and cacophemism (in Greek “kakos” κακός = bad) refer to the usage of an intentionally harsh word or expression instead of a polite one; they are rough opposites of euphemism. “Dysphemism” may be either offensive or merely humorously deprecating, while “cacophemism” is usually deliberately offensive. (More recently, the linguist Kate Burridge has coined the term "orthophemism," to refer to a neutral name or expression.) Dysphemism is related to "blasphemy," but is less focused in scope, and therefore not directly synonymous.
Examples of dysphemism include “dead tree edition” for the paper version of an online magazine, or the American military personnel’s use of “shit on a shingle” for their common breakfast of creamed chipped beef on toast.
Oddly, some humorous expressions can be either euphemistic or dysphemic, depending on context, because terms which can be dysphemic can also be affectionate. For example, pushing up daisies can be taken as either softer or harsher than “died.” Such variance can also be cultural; for instance, "twit" is a dysphemism for "idiot", but in British English is nearly always a humorous or affectionate term.


  • Junk (without real value, as in Junk food or Junk mail)
  • Idiot box (Television)
  • Crippled (Intentionally limited so as to be almost unusable)
  • Dead tree edition (often original, printed version of on-line resource)
  • Bullshit (for "lies" or "nonsense", or an unfair situation)
  • Shit (anything contemptible, also slang for "stuff")
  • Meatspace (referring to physical reality, as opposed to "cyberspace")
  • Snail mail
  • (in French) “Manger les pissenlits par la racine” meaning “to eat dandelions by their roots” (for to be dead—similar to English “pushing up daisies”)
  • Point Percy at the porcelain (for urinate (males))
  • Worm food (for dead)
  • On the rag/red/blob or "Riding the crimson wave" (for menstruation)
  • SOS (Shit On Shingle) For any food where something creamy is poured over something hard.
Many further examples can be found in a 'profanisaurus' published by 'Viz' magazine -


dysphemism in Asturian: Disfemismu
dysphemism in Catalan: Disfemisme
dysphemism in German: Dysphemismus
dysphemism in Spanish: Disfemismo
dysphemism in Galician: Disfemismo
dysphemism in Italian: Disfemismo
dysphemism in Georgian: დისფემიზმი
dysphemism in Portuguese: Disfemismo
dysphemism in Russian: Дисфемизм
dysphemism in Simple English: Dysphemism
dysphemism in Swedish: Dysfemism
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