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weasel words

non-scientific, imprecise language


weasel = Wiesel; Betrüger —— weasel words = unwissenschaftliche, ungenaue Sprache; zweideutige Aussagen, Ausweichmanöver(verbal), faule Ausreden, Ausflüchte



“Cameron accused of ‘WEASEL WORDS’ over position on leaving EU.”

Patrick Wintour - The Guardian

Did you

weasel words
noun phrase

- something that someone says either to avoid answering a question clearly or to make someone believe something that is not true

Cambridge Dictionary


According to the Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, the expression “weasel word” may derive from the egg-eating habits of weasels (sucking the substance and leaving only the shell). William Shakespeare also referred to this in two plays ‘Henry V’ and ‘As You Like It’,… so weasel-like behaviour was already well-known in Elizabethan England by the late 1500’s.


Most weasel words can be divided into three main categories:

(1) Numerically vague expressions such as: “experts say”, “many think”, “evidence suggests”,…

(2) Use of the passive voice to avoid naming a specific source such as: “it is said”,… “it is clear to most,”… “it is generally agreed”,…

(3) Probability adverbs such as: “often”,… “probably”,… “in all likelihood”,…

to describe a sneaky, untrustworthy, or insincere  person:

blighter, bounder, cad, dastardly person, douchebag, filcher, good-for-nothing, limb of Satan, low life, mountebank, nasty piece of work, ne’er-do-well, pond scum, ratfink, rotter, scumbag, scoundrel, snake in the grass, toad, toerag, vulgarian, wrong’un


It's useful to know the above terms, but take care in their use! You may use these to refer to a specific person in one-on-one conversations with a confidant, or in small, intimate groups; but never to a larger group, never in public, and never ever in print,... unless you want to risk a lawsuit!

And when you’ve had enough of hurling abuse, check out this antidote: 'The Romantic Pet Name Generator' for terms of endearment like:

You are a…

Adorable Honeydew Lovebird
Beautiful Buttercup Honey-Bee
Gorgeous Candy-Cane Monkey
Scrumptious Mango Cute Canary
Nice and Naughty Cherry Owl
Sparkling Moonpie Honey Badger
Lovely Wide-Eyed Apple-Pie Kitten

What a wonderful instrument is English, for being nasty and nice!

SMUGGLE OWAD into a conversation today, say something like:

“Scientific journals discourage WEASEL WORDS by asking authors to use the active voice where appropriate, identifying themselves as ‘we’ or even ‘I’.“

THANKS to Jacky for triggering today’s OWAD.

HERZLICHEN DANK to all readers helping me keep OWAD alive with single or monthly donations at:

Paul Smith

More Word Quizzes: