epithet

noun

ep·​i·​thet ˈe-pə-ˌthet How to pronounce epithet (audio)
 also  -thət
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
obsolete : expression
epithetic adjective
or epithetical

Did you know?

Nowadays, epithet is usually used negatively, with the meaning "a disparaging word or phrase," but it wasn't always that way. Epithet comes from Greek epitithenai, meaning "to put on" or "to add." In its oldest sense, epithet is simply a descriptive word or phrase, especially one joined by fixed association to the name of someone or something, as in "Ivan the Great" or the Homeric phrase "wine-dark sea."

Examples of epithet in a Sentence

His charitable works have earned him the epithet “Mr. Philanthropy.” Many were offended by her use of racial epithets. a group of angry people hurling epithets at one another
Recent Examples on the Web The incident occurred in 2021 before the Norman-Midwest City girls high school basketball game when an announcer for a livestream cursed and called one team by a racial epithet as the players kneeled during the national anthem. CBS News, 6 Feb. 2024 The epithet had reportedly been shouted at Kissinger by hecklers the year before, during the disengagement negotiations with Syria, in an apparent parroting of Richard Nixon, who was said to have denigrated him in this way. Kissinger, joined by Rabin, winced and ducked back inside. Jordan Castro, Harper's Magazine, 9 Jan. 2024 Or the Black man punches the white man in the face and calls him a racial epithet. Douglas S. Lavine, Hartford Courant, 6 Jan. 2024 Harassers sent pizza deliveries to Moss’s home that she was expected to pay for, one addressed to a person whose first and last name sounded like the n-word racial epithet. Olivia Diaz, Washington Post, 16 Dec. 2023 During move in, a Black student carrying boxes with her parents reported hearing an intimidating voice call out racial epithets. TIME, 19 Dec. 2023 For his part, Kirk has claimed Pagar spat in his face and spewed a racial epithet, according to TMZ. Nancy Dillon, Rolling Stone, 18 Dec. 2023 Successful businessman George Jefferson (Sherman Hemsley) was often as intolerant as Archie Bunker, often referring to white folks in epithets, but his tirades were based on his own painful experiences of discrimination. Lorraine Ali, Los Angeles Times, 6 Dec. 2023 Breakout star Snoop still entices a mindless constituency through partisan pothead epithets that might even embarrass RINOs on the GOP debate stage. Armond White, National Review, 15 Nov. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'epithet.' 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

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, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of epithet was in 1579

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Dictionary Entries Near epithet

Cite this Entry

“Epithet.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/epithet. Accessed 20 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

epithet

noun
ep·​i·​thet ˈep-ə-ˌthet How to pronounce epithet (audio)
1
a
: a word or phrase (as Lionhearted in "Richard the Lionhearted") that expresses a quality thought to be characteristic of a person or thing
b
: a word or name used as a term of abuse
2
: the part of a taxonomic name identifying a subordinate unit within a genus
epithetic adjective
or epithetical

Medical Definition

epithet

noun
ep·​i·​thet
ˈep-ə-ˌthet also -thət
: the part of a scientific name identifying the species, variety, or other subunit within a genus see specific epithet

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