Definition of epithet
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
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
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
EPITHET Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of epithet for English Language Learners
: 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
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