The word euphemism comes from the Greek word ευφημία (euphemia), meaning "the use of words of good omen", which in turn is derived from the Greek root-words eu (ευ), "good/well" + pheme (φήμι) "speech/speaking", meaning glory, flattering speech, praise. Etymologically, the eupheme is the opposite of the blaspheme (evil-speaking). The term euphemism itself was used as a euphemism by the ancient Greeks, meaning "to keep a holy silence" (speaking well by not speaking at all).
Historical linguistics has revealed traces of taboo deformations in many languages. Several are known to have occurred in Indo-European languages, including the presumed original Proto-Indo-European words for bear (*rkso), wolf (*wlkwo), and deer (originally, hart—although the word hart remained commonplace in parts of England until the 20th century as is witnessed by the widespread use of the pub sign The White Hart). In different Indo-European languages, each of these words has a difficult etymology because of taboo deformations: a euphemism was substituted for the original, which no longer occurs in the language. An example is the Slavic root for bear, *medu-ed-, which means "honey eater". Names in Germanic languages—including English—are derived from the color brown. Another example in English is donkey replacing the old Indo-European-derived word ass. The word dandelion (literally, tooth of lion, referring to the shape of the leaves) is another example, being a substitute for pissenlit, meaning "wet the bed", a possible reference to the fact that dandelion was used as a diuretic. The Talmud describes the blind as having "much light" (Aramaic סגי נהור) and this phrase—sagee nahor—is the Modern Hebrew for euphemism.
In some languages of the Pacific, using the name of a deceased chief is taboo. Among indigenous Australians, it is forbidden to use the name, image, or recording of the deceased; the Australian Broadcasting Corporation now publishes a warning to