What is the halachik source, if any, for lashon naki (clean speech)? Is there a portion of Talmud that deals with the specifics? On the surface, it seems to be employed inconsistently, by which I mean there are times where the torah or chazal will go out of their way to use euphemism instead of the proper noun or description (the below example from Pesachim is great). However, other times we find very graphic descriptions for instance, of female genitalia in shir hashirim, (albeit assumedly metaphorical) or tzoah rosachas (gitin 57a) with no compunction for 'lashon naki'.

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    Moshe, welcome to Judaism.SE, and thanks very much for the interesting question! Could you please edit into the question what you mean by your last sentence? Also, please consider registering your account, which will give you access to more of the site's features.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Feb 14, 2012 at 14:44
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    Based on the different answers below, I think you need to better define what you mean by Lashon Naki.
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 14, 2012 at 17:20
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    Thanks Isaac for that very gracious welcome. This site is simply awesome!
    – none
    Commented Feb 14, 2012 at 22:04

2 Answers 2


The Talmud discusses this issue in Pesachim 3a.

There it brings a number of instances where a verse uses extra letters to avoid saying a negative word. Here's one example that it brings:

The verse by Noach (Genesis 7:8) says to bring into the ark animals that are טהורה (pure) and animals that are אשר איננה טהורה (lit. that are not pure). This is instead of the shorter and more conventional טמאה (impure). I know this doesn't work out in translation so well, but in Hebrew it uses 8 extra letters to avoid saying 'impure'.

See there for more proofs and examples.

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    Thank you for this helpful answer. So it would seem from here that there are no real halachik parameters for what is 'meguneh'. Is that correct?
    – none
    Commented Feb 14, 2012 at 22:13
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    @Moshe So it would seem (as I don't see any reference marks to the Rambam or Shulchan Aruch.) Also, welcome to the site! You should know that when you add a comment, it automatically notifies the poster at the top left of their screen, but if you want to notify someone else (as I imagine you wanted to do in your comment to IsaacMoses above) you should put the @ symbol before their name as I am doing here. Hope to see you around
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 14, 2012 at 22:19
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    I remember once learning (but don't remember the source) that the Lubavitcher Rebbe points out that there are many places that the Torah uses calls an animal "impure", so what is the proof from Parshat Noach? The Rebbe answers that when it comes to Halacha L'Maaseh, one must always speak clearly (which is why in Halacha it uses the term "impure" many times). When telling a story about Noach, the Torah uses a cleaner method ("which are not pure") to teach us to speak in a cleaner matter.
    – Menachem
    Commented Feb 15, 2012 at 15:13
  • 3b does give a bit more clarification. for example, in a pedagogical setting, one should be terse even if they speak improperly, perhaps shedding some light on OP's examples.
    – Baby Seal
    Commented May 13, 2015 at 12:14
  • I wonder if animals could be tamei before Sinai. There is no impurity in the Noahide law or for gentiles. I had assumed the purity there was nothing more than fit for a sacrifice. Commented Aug 3, 2023 at 19:09

I think the usual source is Talmud Bavli Shabbos 33a, although the context there is aggadic rather than halachic. It identifies what is called "nivul peh" (obscene speech) as a cause for many a tragedy in the Jewish people and derives this from Yeshayahu 9:16. It also states there that for one who employs nivul peh, gehinom (hell) is "made deeper" for him.

Altogether, it would be difficult to identify this a a halachic prohibition , especially as I don't recall it being mentioned in halachic codes of law such as Mishna Torah or Shulchan Aruch. (Although Machzor Vitri seems to indicate that it is actaully forbidden.) It can certainly be said, though, that it is not a good thing.

With regard to what constitutes nivul peh, I would say that's more of a sociological question than a halachic one. Whatever is considered "improper language" in the society in which you live. (I suppose it would be similar to judging what is considered simlas isha and simlas gever with regard to cross-dressing.)

As a side note, the Taz (YD 124:1) writes that the above gemara about nivul peh is referring only to intentional speech. If one says something improper unintentionally, the above does not apply.

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    I wonder which of our answers he was intending for? :)
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 14, 2012 at 17:19
  • @DoubleAA, I guess we both made different assumptions about his intentions.
    – jake
    Commented Feb 14, 2012 at 17:23
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    On the bright side, we might have inadvertently solved his inconsistencies!
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 14, 2012 at 17:27
  • I think the nivul peh point is strong but different than what I'm looking for. My assumption is that there may be a strong difference between what you actual say verbally and what you 'communicate' which may have to be naki.
    – none
    Commented Feb 14, 2012 at 22:10
  • I suggest you move this post to the current question about Nivul Peh.
    – Double AA
    Commented Aug 1, 2012 at 18:14

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