Euphemisms for dead, death and dying: are they useful or harmful? (2023)

Euphemisms are a way of expressing something without saying a specific word that could be seen as too blunt or direct. "Death," "died," and "dying" are terms that are often couched in more indirect, evasive, or protective language, as a euphemism.

Euphemisms for dead, death and dying: are they useful or harmful? (1)

Let's look at some popular words and phrases that are often used in place of death and dying, and discuss the pros and cons of such euphemisms.

Popular euphemisms for death

Here are some common terms and groups of terms used to refer to them.die or die process. Some of them can be seen as a softer way of expressing death, while others refer to a specific spiritual belief about what happens after death.

  • Gone, deceased or deceased
  • Rest in peace, eternal rest, asleep
  • death
  • Deceased
  • Gone, gone, lost, got away
  • He lost his fight, he lost his life, he succumbed
  • gave up the ghost
  • Has died
  • i didn't make it
  • He has exhaled his last
  • He went to the Lord, he went to heaven, he met his Maker
  • It was called home, it's in a better place

Different cultures, places, and countries differ significantly in the most frequently used euphemisms.

Why do we use euphemisms?

There are various reasons why people use euphemisms.

for protection

The euphemisms for death and dying are often used to protect someone, be it the person speaking the words or hearing them. We may be looking for a softer way to break the news of someone's death or to offer comfort despite everything.painthere Situation.

To avoid being rude and abusive

The goal here is to avoid hurting and offending someone by being too blunt, as this could be interpreted and perceived as blunt, rude, or rude. We want to protect those around us by not "rubbing", so we could use a euphemism to refer to death.

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To avoid discomfort

Death and dying are a natural part of life, but many people feel uncomfortable or fearful.

Our own feelings of sadness.

To use direct words about death, the speaker must confront their own feelings of grief and loss. Explaining to someone that a loved one "didn't make it" is sometimes easier than saying "died." Death is final and it can be hard to say it out loud when we are struggling with the situation.

Of the partial negation

Similarly, using the word "dead" makes it hard to deny reality. And psychologically, a little bit of denial isn't bad as a short-term coping mechanism, although it's clear that denial must be turned into acceptance. Indirect speech can sometimes be a helpful way to gradually process your feelings mentally and emotionally.

To offer spiritual comfort.

For those who believe in certain religions, the emphasis of death is on life after death. So perhaps saying that someone has “gone to the Lord” isn't an avoidance tactic at all, but rather a shared reminder of the comfort that can be found in that faith.

Effect of euphemisms on children

The use of euphemisms is not usually recommended when discussing death with children. While the intent is to be gentle and protect the child from further pain, indirect language is often confusing to a child.

Euphemizing terms like "sleep" or "rest" could cause them to be misunderstood and afraid to go to bed at night. Similarly, saying "We lost Uncle Fred last night" might prevent the child from understanding that the person died and instead prompt him to look for Uncle Fred because he is "lost."

Children's understanding of death is often very limited, as they often lack the experience of others' death and, depending on their age, are unable to understand what they do not know.

This can make death an abstract concept, and often the cognitive capacity for abstract thought does not develop until near or even during adolescence.

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hospiceExperts recommend using direct language with children to prepare for the death of a loved one and to talk about the death after it happens.

Although it may be difficult for an adult to talk to a child, it is recommended to speak of the child's sick mother as "preparing to die soon" rather than describing the mother as "not well" or "walking" to denote homeland. ."

Euphemisms and people with dementia

people withmild cognitive impairment,Alzheimer's, in otrotype of dementiaMay not understand indirect speech very well. Previous research has shown that in dementia, the ability to understand a proverb requires abstract thinking skills, which often deteriorate as dementia progresses.

Euphemisms are similar to proverbs in that they convey information in subtle ways that a person with dementia may not fully understand. This can prevent them from really understanding that someone has died.

Use of euphemisms in health care

While some euphemisms are used by friends and relatives to mean kind, gentle, and courteous, there is another group of euphemisms that are commonly used by doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals. Common medical euphemisms are:

  • Not very good
  • declining
  • not react
  • You may want to consider comfort care
  • seriously ill
  • won't make it
  • The treatment is useless.
  • Expired

Despite working in a field that can be a matter of life and death, many medical professionals still find it difficult to talk directly about death and death. This can have several reasons.

In an effort to break the news in a gentle and discreet manner, medical staff often use euphemisms to convey bad news to a patient or their families. This is driven by compassion and a desire to soften or soften the blow. This may be appropriate and helpful for some families, but for others it may prevent them from fully understanding the situation.

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Additionally, some medical workers may work to calm themselves in these situations, and indirect language may be easier to use to convey information in a professional manner.

Despite years of training in healing the body, healthcare professionals sometimes have little training on how to do it.emotional impact of patient carethey die.

At other times, euphemisms are used when one is concerned about how someone will react to bad news. Indirect phrases can be used, for example, when there is concern that the family will become angry or blame medical personnel for the person's death and eventual death.

Implications for health decisions

Euphemisms can sometimes obscure the reality of the situation, and those facing imminent death need support to understand what is happening.

This potential lack of understanding could prevent the patient or a decision maker from fully understanding the information and health status, making healthcare decision making difficult.

Imagine this scenario with the following words:

  • The doctor says, "I'm sorry to tell you this, but John isn't doing too well. We want to make sure he's okay giving him this medicine. Is it okay for you?"
  • The doctor says, "I'm sorry to tell you this, but John is not doing very well. In fact, he is showing medical signs that he is likely to die in the next few days. We want to make sure he is comfortable giving him this medication. Is it okay for you?" "

Different wording in these communications could paint a very different picture of how John is doing and what his prognosis is. Some may understand that the two are similar, but others may read the first example as a general statement that John is sick and that the medication will help him.

Interestingly, a study was conducted on the language and processes used to inform families about the health status of their loved ones. The researchers found that despite the pain that resulted from hearing the terminology used directly, family members preferred to have more knowledge and a better understanding of how sick their loved one was.

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Even in cases where the patient survived, family members reported long-term benefits from knowing their loved one was sick enough to die. They were also more likely to feel that the communication they received from their health care team was effective, and they were more satisfied with the patient's care.

One study found that caregivers receive from humansPalliativpflege(Comfort Care) wanted medical staff to use the specific words death and die, speak directly about their medical condition, avoid euphemisms, and speak in front of the patient about impending death, instead of walking into a different room away from the patient.

When euphemisms are appropriate

Indirect language to discuss death and dying may be appropriate when discussing a future possibility of death. For example, when you talk to your cognitively healthy parents about why they should plan ahead and choose aHealth Care Power of Attorney, you may not need to be as direct with your language.

Also, as mentioned above, euphemisms can often be appropriate when used for protection and reassurance.

When to use direct language

Wordstod,until, yDieshould be used when it is important to know exactly what is happening.This is also true when making critical medical decisions based on a patient's prognosis, when speaking with people who may not fully understand indirect speech, and when a language barrier might impede understanding.

A word from Verywell

Various words and phrases can be used as euphemisms for death, dying, and dying. It is important to understand the benefits and potentially harmful effects of using indirect language and to choose your words carefully, based on your own.Purpose and the audience you are speaking to.


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