AskDefine | Define doublespeak

Dictionary Definition

doublespeak n : any language that pretends to communicate but actually does not

User Contributed Dictionary



Coined in the 1950s in the vein of George Orwell's Newspeak as used in his book Nineteen Eighty-Four. The word doublespeak does not appear in the book, although newspeak, oldspeak, and doublethink do.


  1. Any language deliberately constructed to disguise or distort its actual meaning, often by employing euphemism or ambiguity. Typically used by governments or large institutions.
    The report was riddled with so much corporate doublespeak that it was impossible to interpret.
    • 1976, Brent D. Ruben, The Coming of the Information Age, in Information and Behavior (Brent D. Ruben, ed.), page 7
      The popular and convergent use of information seems to represent something beyond the mere cosmetics of doublespeak, of a "garbage collector" turned "sanitary engineer" or a "strike" turned "work stoppage."

See also

Extensive Definition

Doublespeak (sometimes double talk) is language constructed to disguise or distort its actual meaning, often resulting in a communication bypass. Doublespeak may take the form of bald euphemisms (e.g., "downsizing" for layoffs) or deliberate ambiguity. Doublespeak is a disparaging label for any euphemistic term perceived to be uttered in bad faith.


The term doublespeak was coined in the early 1950s. It is often incorrectly attributed to George Orwell and his 1949 dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. The term does not appear in that novel, although Orwell did coin newspeak, oldspeak, and doublethink, and his novel made fashionable composite nouns with speak as the second element, which were previously unknown in English. Doublespeak may be considered, in Orwell's lexicography, as the vocabulary of Newspeak, words "deliberately constructed for political purposes: words, that is to say, which not only had in every case a political implication, but were intended to impose a desirable mental attitude upon the person using them." The term double talk (with a similar meaning) dates back to at least 1936.
"Double talk" – typically a mixture of real English and English-sounding gibberish – has been used in a comedic or satiric way since the vaudeville days.

See also



  • Lutz, William. (1987). Doublespeak: From "Revenue Enhancement" to "Terminal Living": How Government, Business, Advertisers, and Others Use Language to Deceive You. New York: Harper & Row.

External links

doublespeak in German: Euphemismus
doublespeak in Japanese: ダブルスピーク
doublespeak in Polish: Antysłowo Roku
doublespeak in Chinese: 雙言巧語
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