weasel word

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English[edit]

Examples
  • Some people say that weasel words are great!” (who?)

Etymology[edit]

Initially a reference weasels' practice of making small holes in eggs and then eating the contents, leaving the shell; later sometimes taken as a reference to the weasel's "wriggling, evasive character".[1]

Noun[edit]

weasel word (plural weasel words)

  1. (derogatory, dated) A word that negates or removes the meaning of the word it qualifies.
    • 1900. Century Magazine, quoted in Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins by Robert Hendrickson (New York: Facts on File Publications, 1987)).
      Weasel words are words that suck all of the life out of the words next to them just as a weasel sucks an egg and leaves the shell.
    • 1916 May 31, Theodore Roosevelt, speech delivered in St. Louis, MO:
      Now, you can have universal training or you can have voluntary training, but when you use the word 'voluntary' to qualify the word 'universal', you are using a weasel word; it has sucked all the meaning out of 'universal'. The two words flatly contradict one another.
  2. (derogatory) A word used to hedge a statement, for example to make it vague, equivocal, or misleading.
    Synonym: hedge
    Hypernym: qualifier

Translations[edit]

Verb[edit]

weasel word (third-person singular simple present weasel words, present participle weasel wording, simple past and past participle weasel worded)

  1. To use weasel words.
    • 1979, Peter Straub, Ghost Story:
      Now Sears looked down at the person fate had put closer to him than anyone else in the world, and knew that Ricky was thinking that he had weasel-worded his way out of the last question.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  1. ^ Bryan A. Garner, A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage (2001), page 926.