epithet

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

Definition of epithet 

1a : 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

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Other Words from epithet

epithetic \ ˌe-​pə-​ˈthe-​tik \ or epithetical \ ˌe-​pə-​ˈthe-​ti-​kəl \ adjective

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.

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
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Recent Examples on the Web

When the president arrived, Marriott shouted the epithet as Trump walked into the office of House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. Chad Pergram, Fox News, "Intern who cursed at Trump is identified, was suspended but not fired," 25 June 2018 According to excerpts in media outlets, Manigault-Newman questions Trump’s mental state and accuses him of using racial epithets. Gregg Re, Fox News, "Omarosa releases purported secret recording of Chief of Staff John Kelly 'threatening' her in the Situation Room," 13 Aug. 2018 With one phone call—or even a cursory glance at a media guide—Newton could easily have discerned the identity of the scout and ascertained for himself whether Richardson had, in fact, used racial epithets. Jon Wertheim, SI.com, "The Striking Contrast Between the Mavs and Panthers In Crisis," 23 Feb. 2018 Herbert Hoover, who could justifiably campaign as a progressive Republican, pigeonholed Smith as an advocate of state socialism (the same epithet that a spiteful Smith would hurl at Roosevelt in 1936). Sam Roberts, New York Times, "Trailblazers in Politics and Civil Rights," 19 Apr. 2018 But the other half of that epithet was, at the time, harder to deny. Liana Schaffner, Teen Vogue, "The Boys at Brett Kavanaugh's School Called the Girls at Mine the "Whores on the Hill" and I Believed Them," 27 Sep. 2018 The resurfaced tweets in question show Lee making racist remarks and using racial epithets. Leah Prinzivalli, Allure, "Is Laura Lee Getting Dropped by Beauty Brands Because of Her Past Racist Tweets?," 22 Aug. 2018 While there has not yet been a serious episode at these rallies, the mood has turned increasingly menacing, with supporters snapping pictures of reporters while screaming epithets at them. Mark Landler, New York Times, "Condemning Deadly Newsroom Shooting, Trump Tempers Hostility Toward Media," 29 June 2018 Smith-Pelly, who is black, garnered his most attention when a fan in Chicago hurled racial epithets at him during a game. Adam Kilgore, chicagotribune.com, "Capitals' Devante Smith-Pelly has gone from unwanted to unlikely hero," 5 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'epithet.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of epithet

1579, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for epithet

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

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Statistics for epithet

Last Updated

29 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for epithet

The first known use of epithet was in 1579

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More Definitions for epithet

epithet

noun

English Language Learners 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

epithet

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

Medical Definition of epithet 

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

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