epiphany

noun

epiph·​a·​ny i-ˈpi-fə-nē How to pronounce epiphany (audio)
plural epiphanies
1
capitalized : January 6 observed as a church festival in commemoration of the coming of the Magi as the first manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles or in the Eastern Church in commemoration of the baptism of Christ
2
: an appearance or manifestation especially of a divine being
3
a(1)
: a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something
(2)
: an intuitive grasp of reality through something (such as an event) usually simple and striking
(3)
: an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure
b
: a revealing scene or moment

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a difference between epiphany and revelation?

Epiphany and revelation have many similarities in meaning; one sense of epiphany is "a revealing scene or moment," and one sense of revelation is "something that is revealed." However, epiphany may also mean "an appearance or manifestation especially of a divine being," a sense not shared by revelation. Additionally, revelation is more likely to be used in the ecclesiastic sense of "an act of revealing or communicating divine truth."

What does epiphany mean in the Bible?

The earliest definition of epiphany refers to the religious observance on January 6: "A church festival in commemoration of the coming of the Magi as the first manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles or in the Eastern Church in commemoration of the baptism of Christ." When used this way it is usually capitalized.

Is there a difference between epiphany and eureka?

Eureka can function as an interjection or an adjective. An interjection is an ejaculatory utterance that usually lacks grammatical connection (someone who has just made a discovery may yell eureka), and an adjective modifies a noun (the person might describe this discovery as a eureka moment). While epiphany may cover some similar semantic terrain (particularly the sense meaning "an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure"), in terms of its function in a sentence, it is a noun.

Examples of epiphany in a Sentence

Invention has its own algorithm: genius, obsession, serendipity, and epiphany in some unknowable combination. Malcolm Gladwell, New Yorker, 12 May 2008
One day, a New York composer met an expert on Asian domesticated elephants, and together they reached some sort of freakish epiphany and decided to see if elephants could learn to play music. Jon Pareles, New York Times, 5 Jan. 2002
One epiphany came when a dozen engineers in northern New Mexico saw a lone, fading Xerox paper carton bobbing in a swamp of old motor oil at the bottom of a pit. Michelle Conlin, Business Week, 1 Nov. 1999
Seeing her father again when she was an adult was an epiphany that changed her whole view of her childhood.
Recent Examples on the Web As the sun set and the crowd applauded, Mr. Buffett had an epiphany that this tropical paradise, with its scoundrels, literary lights, smugglers and fishermen, would be home as well as endlessly fertile ground for songwriting material. Glenn Rifkin, Washington Post, 2 Sep. 2023 Additionally, while howling at the moon last Thursday in an orgiastic frenzy, I was struck with an epiphany. Josh Gondelman, The New Yorker, 27 Aug. 2023 McGillis was a stargazer and a lightworker — one who had gone through a soulful awakening and sought to help others reach similar epiphanies. Michael Williams, Dallas News, 20 July 2023 This epiphany led her to establish Troy Medical, named in honor of a patient whose indomitable spirit served as a beacon of inspiration. Hilary Tetenbaum, USA TODAY, 9 Aug. 2023 At times, the book adheres a little too stringently to the rules of its own formal game, though its unrelieved tensions are also a critique of its genre’s easy epiphanies. Julian Lucas, The New Yorker, 8 Aug. 2023 The idea for Ever’s third-act epiphany to restore order after chaos is given to her by Xavier. Courtney Howard, Variety, 6 Aug. 2023 When the perceptive Moon in your domestic sector aligns with the dynamic Sun in your transformative 8th house, your epiphany could strike the perfect balance between sharing and giving each person their own space. Tarot Astrologers, Chicago Tribune, 5 Aug. 2023 This is the epiphany that was so beautifully depicted in the scene with the elderly woman on the city bench (who was played by Oscar-winning costume designer Ann Roth). Quinci Legardye, Harper's BAZAAR, 22 July 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'epiphany.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Middle English Epiphanie, borrowed from Anglo-French Epiphane, Epiphanie, borrowed from Late Latin epiphanīa, epiphania "appearance, manifestation, Christ's first manifestation (to the Gentiles in Western tradition)," borrowed from Late Greek epipháneia "appearance, manifestation (of God in the Old Testament, of Christ's first coming or of the Second Coming)," going back to Greek, "appearance, coming into view, manifestation (of a deity to a worshipper), Christ's coming (in the New Testament), visible surface, outward show, fame," noun derivative of epiphanḗs "coming into view, appearing, manifest, evident," adjective derivative from the stem of epiphaínein "to show, display," mediopassive epiphaínesthai "to come into view, be manifested, appear on the the service," from epi- epi- + phaínein "to bring to light, cause to appear," phaínesthai "to become visible, appear" — more at fantasy entry 1

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of epiphany was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near epiphany

Cite this Entry

“Epiphany.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/epiphany. Accessed 21 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition

Epiphany

noun
Epiph·​a·​ny
i-ˈpif-ə-nē
: January 6 observed as a Christian festival in honor of the coming of the three kings to the infant Jesus or in the Eastern church in commemoration of Jesus' baptism

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