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epithet

[ep-uh-thet] /ˈɛp əˌθɛt/
noun
1.
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.
2.
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.”.
3.
a word, phrase, or expression used invectively as a term of abuse or contempt, to express hostility, etc.
Origin
1570-1580
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.
Synonyms
1, 2. nickname, sobriquet, designation, appellation. 3. curse, insult, abuse, expletive, obscenity.
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for epithets
  • Listen to the objections and the epithets and the guffaws.
  • Not all the readers who disagree with the story are flinging epithets.
  • They warmed themselves around fires in oil drums, screamed epithets and taunted workers attempting to enter the building.
  • He went on to run down a litany of bigoted epithets.
  • But the mere use of ugly words, epithets, or slurs is not an adequate ground for negative sanctions.
  • His style is diffusive, swelling, and full of epithets: and he is fond of comparisons and allegories.
  • Note those epithets: they will range through all the arts.
  • There is doubtless some advantage in the shortness of the lines, which there is little temptation to load with expletive epithets.
  • And in the nether reaches of the left blogosphere the epithets flew.
  • His eyebrows were raised by the circus he witnessed, by the barnyard epithets that filled the air.
British Dictionary definitions for epithets

epithet

/ˈɛpɪˌθɛt/
noun
1.
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
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for epithets

epithet

n.

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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Encyclopedia Article for epithets

epithet

an adjective or phrase that is used to express the characteristic of a person or thing, such as Ivan the Terrible. In literature, the term is considered an element of poetic diction, or something that distinguishes the language of poetry from ordinary language. Homer used certain epithets so regularly that they became a standard part of the name of the thing or person described, as in "rosy-fingered Dawn" and "gray-eyed Athena." The device was used by many later poets, including John Keats in his sonnet "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer": Oft of one wide expanse had I been toldThat deep-browed Homer ruled as his demesne.

Learn more about epithet with a free trial on Britannica.com
Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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13
13
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