Innuendo - Word of the Week

Definition - Innuendo

Noun: a comment or remark which hints at an accusation or suggestion, without saying it directly.


"The teacher said that all students needed to be on time for class, which was innuendo aimed at Dave, who had been late twice that week."

Another good example is from gangster films, where a gangster is making a shop owner pay money to prevent the gang from destroying his shop. The gangster will say something like, "This is a nice shop. It would be a shame if anything happened to it." The innuendo here is that if the owner doesn't pay up, the gang will destroy his shop.

Innuendo is one of those things about any language that make it more difficult for non-native speakers to understand what you are speaking about - much like idioms and metaphors. This is because the thing you are talking about is not mentioned, but you "talk around" the subject. By definition innuendo means "to point" to something, without saying it out loud.

This can be done by talking generally about a subject that applies to only one person, by using figures of speech like puns and metaphors, or referring to a phrase from a film or book that everyone knows. Innuendo can also be used to suggest something that it might not be polite to talk about in public. This only works if both speakers understand the innuendo being made.

When a phrase can have both an innocent and a not-so-innocent meaning, it is called a double entendre, (from French) or "double meaning".


The word "innuendo" comes from the Latin word meaning "to point".

Do you understand innuendos when they come up in everyday conversation? If not, check out our Intensive English courses, which are designed to help you understand more complicated conversation.