Quantcast
Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary

epithet

play
noun ep·i·thet \ˈe-pə-ˌthet also -thət\

Simple Definition of epithet

  • : a word or phrase that describes a person or thing

  • : an offensive word or name that is used as a way of abusing or insulting someone

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of epithet

  1. 1 a :  a characterizing word or phrase accompanying or occurring in place of the name of a person or thing b :  a disparaging or abusive word or phrase c :  the part of a taxonomic name identifying a subordinate unit within a genus

  2. 2 obsolete :  expression

epithetic

play \ˌe-pə-ˈthe-tik\ or

epithetical

play \-ti-kəl\ adjective

Examples of epithet in a sentence

  1. His charitable works have earned him the epithet Mr. Philanthropy.

  2. Many were offended by her use of racial epithets.

  3. a group of angry people hurling epithets at one another



Did You Know?

Nowadays, "epithet" is usually used negatively, with the meaning "a derogatory word or phrase," but it wasn't always that way. "Epithet" comes to us via Latin from the Greek noun epitheton and ultimately derives from epitithenai, meaning "to put on" or "to add." In its oldest sense, an "epithet" is simply a descriptive word or phrase, especially one joined by fixed association to the name of someone or something (as in "Peter the Great" or the stock Homeric phrases "gray-eyed Athena" and "wine-dark sea"). Alternatively, epithets may be used in place of a name (as in "the Peacemaker" or "the Eternal"). These neutral meanings of "epithet" are still in use, but today the word is more often used in its negative "term of disparagement" sense.

Origin and Etymology of epithet

Latin epitheton, from Greek, from neuter of epithetos added, from epitithenai to put on, add, from epi- + tithenai to put — more at do


First Known Use: 1579


Medical Dictionary

epithet

play
noun ep·i·thet \ˈep-ə-ˌthet also -thət\

Medical Definition of epithet

  1. :  the part of a scientific name identifying the species, variety, or other subunit within a genus—see specific epithet





Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up epithet? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

a representation of something

Get Word of the Day daily email!

WORD GAMES

Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!

confounded-person

Which is a synonym of indolent?

philistine melancholy lazy frenetic
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ