weasel word

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weasel word (plural weasel words)

  1. (derogatory) A word used to qualify a statement so as to make it potentially misleading.
    • 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.
    • May 31 1916, 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.


  • (word used to qualify a statement): hedge


  • (word used to qualify a statement): qualifier



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.

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