#270: 20 English Euphemisms to Describe People and Aging

Apr 5, 2023 | Advanced Vocabulary, Idioms & Figurative Language

If someone were to describe you as a late bloomer or a wallflower, what are they saying about you?

Or if a colleague is celebrating their birthday and someone says, “You’re now over the hill”, what does that mean?

Welcome to the world of euphemisms!

 

Euphemisms are figurative words or phrases used to refer to and describe something or someone.  

Like idioms, euphemisms don’t rely on their literal meanings but rely on a common, shared understanding of the meaning. 

As a result, they can be a challenge to decode. Their purpose is to soften uncomfortable topics and refer to them without doing so explicitly. Or directly.

 

In other words, they can be a more polite way to refer to sensitive topics such as bodily functions, death, finances, politics, and more.  

In today’s Confident English, you’ll learn 20 English Euphemisms to describe people and aging. I’ll also include euphemisms we use to refer to end-of-life or death.

WATCH THE LESSON

20 English Euphemisms to Describe People and Aging

Euphemisms vs. Idioms

Before we start with our first category — common euphemisms to describe characteristics — let’s discuss how euphemisms vs. idioms. How are they different?

Idioms are phrases that have a figurative meaning instead of a literal meaning. In this regard, euphemisms are a type of idiom. 

However, we use euphemisms to soften blunt or harsh references to taboo or sensitive topics. 

Euphemisms Describe People

  • Neat freak
    1. Def: a person obsessed with tidiness and organization
    2. Example: “My sister hates when things are out of place; she’s a bit of a neat freak.
  • Eccentric
    1. Def: unconventional in a charming way
    2. Example: “My high school English teacher was eccentric and interesting.
  • Free-spirited
    1. Def: rebellious or unconventional
    2. Example: “My daughter was free-spirited as a teenager.”
  • Not the sharpest pencil in the box
    1. Def: Not the smartest person
    2. Example: “It took me hours to figure that out; sometimes I’m not the sharpest pencil in the box.
  • To not suffer fools gladly
    1. Def: impatient and intolerant towards people who aren’t intelligent
    2. Example: “My Aunt Carla was not a woman who suffered fools gladly.
  • Late bloomer
    1. Def: a person who becomes successful, attractive, more mature, etc., later in life than others
    2. Example: “She was a late bloomer as a child and didn’t start reading until she was 7.
  • Economical with the truth
    1. Def: a liar; likely to bend the truth
    2. Example: “Susan’s nice, but she tends to be economical with the truth at times.”
  • Wallflower
  1. Def: unsociable due to shyness
  2. Example: “Rita is a wallflower at parties.
  • People person
  1. Def: sociable or good with people
  2. Example: “Meanwhile, her brother is a total people person.

Euphemisms Describe Aging

  • Golden years
    1. Def: phase of life after retirement
    2. Example: “My grandfather’s golden years were filled with adventure and laughter.
  • Senior citizen 
    1. Def: older or elderly person (usually over 60 years old)
    2. Example: “Every year, the community hosts events for senior citizens.
  • Long in the tooth
    1. Def: a humorous way to refer to aging; getting old
    2. Example: “Grandma, you’re a little long in the tooth to be doing high kicks!
  • Well-seasoned
    1. Def: alive for a long time and experienced in handling any situation
    2. Example: “Seema is a well-seasoned teacher; she knows her stuff!”
  • To have snow on the roof
    1. Def: to have gray or white hair on one’s head due to aging
    2. Example: “There may be some snow on the roof, but I’m still very active.
  • Over the hill
  1. Def: old and past one’s prime; no longer able to do something well due to age
  2. Example: “Ella doesn’t like when people suggest that she’s over the hill.”

    Euphemisms Describe the End-of-Life Stage or Death

    • To pass away
      1. Def: to have a gentle and peaceful death
      2. Example: “Quinn’s great-aunt passed away last night.”
        1. Similar to passing away, you’ll also hear of someone passing. 
    • Departed
      1. Def: dead; decease
      2. Example: “Our dear departed friend will be missed.” 
    • To be in a better place
      1. Def: in heaven or a paradise in the afterlife; dead
      2. Example: “We know she’s in a better place now.
    • To kick the bucket
      1. Def: to die (used informally, in a humourous or light-hearted way)
      2. Example: “In FRIENDS, Ross and Monica’s grandma kicks the bucket twice!
    • To be six feet under
    1. Def: to be dead and buried
    2. Example: “There’s no point in worrying about it now; we’ll be six feet under by then.”

    Time to Practice

    After watching this lesson, rephrase the following sentences to be more polite or sensitive. (Hint: use the euphemisms from today’s lesson!) 

    1. Even though I have some gray hair, I know the latest trends. 
    2. My roommate had an unconventional way of solving problems. 
    3. By the time you finish doing your makeup, we’ll be dead.

    You can share your answers — as well as your questions — with me in the comments below.

    ~ Annemarie

     

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