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[ep-uh-thet] /ˈɛp əˌθɛt/
any word or phrase applied to a person or thing to describe an actual or attributed quality:
“Richard the Lion-Hearted” is an epithet of Richard I.
a characterizing word or phrase firmly associated with a person or thing and often used in place of an actual name, title, or the like, as “man's best friend” for “dog.”.
a word, phrase, or expression used invectively as a term of abuse or contempt, to express hostility, etc.
Origin of epithet
1570-80; < Latin epitheton epithet, adjective < Greek epítheton epithet, something added, equivalent to epi- epi- + the- (variant stem of tithénai to put) + -ton neuter verbid suffix
Related forms
epithetic, epithetical, adjective
Can be confused
epigram, epigraph, epitaph, epithet.
1, 2. nickname, sobriquet, designation, appellation. 3. curse, insult, abuse, expletive, obscenity. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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British Dictionary definitions for epithetic


a descriptive word or phrase added to or substituted for a person's name: "Lackland" is an epithet for King John
Derived Forms
epithetic, epithetical, adjective
Word Origin
C16: from Latin epitheton, from Greek, from epitithenai to add, from tithenai to put
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin and History for epithetic



1570s, "descriptive name for a person or thing," from Middle French épithète or directly from Latin epitheton, from Greek epitheton "something added," adjective often used as noun, from neuter of epithetos "attributed, added," from epitithenai "to add on," from epi "in addition" (see epi-) + tithenai "to put" (see factitious).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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