epithet

noun
ep·​i·​thet | \ ˈe-pə-ˌthet also -thət How to pronounce epithet (audio) \

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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from epithet

epithetic \ ˌe-​pə-​ˈthe-​tik How to pronounce epithetic (audio) \ or epithetical \ ˌe-​pə-​ˈthe-​ti-​kəl How to pronounce epithetical (audio) \ 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
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

The Oscar epithet goes back to the early 1930s, but the explanation for its origin remains surprisingly elusive. Ben Zimmer, WSJ, "How Did the Academy Award Become the ‘Oscar’?," 22 Feb. 2019 No one is accused of making racial threats, using racial epithets, or even mentioning race. Fox News, "New developments in Tucker's Google investigation; Dean Cain on Hollywood rallying behind Kavanaugh's accuser," 22 Sep. 2018 Sign-up Then there was the baseball coach, Paul Pennell, reared in a family where racial epithets were forbidden. David M. Shribman, WSJ, "‘Tigerland’ Review: Playing the Game Their Way," 18 Jan. 2019 For me, the boiling point in 2014 came when a group of angry, American flag-waving right-wingers surrounded buses and hurled epithets at buses of migrants trying to reach a government facility in Murietta, Calif. Will Bunch, Philly.com, "Some of the pictures of border kids that haunt me most are from 2014. Here's why | Will Bunch," 24 June 2018 He got expelled from school multiple times, once after beating a black kid who refused to move and hurling racial epithets at the principal. Shaila Dewan, New York Times, "Three New Books Illuminate the Rise of Violent White Extremism," 11 May 2018 Rapier’s sons also said the man called the girl a racial epithet. Madeline Farber, Fox News, "Michigan man, a non-compliant registered sex offender, allegedly urinated on 5-year-old girl, used racial slur," 24 Aug. 2018 Mr Hollande, who has published a book reflecting on his spell in office and is suspected of planning a comeback, retorted on a French TV show recently that this epithet was not fair. The Economist, "The incredible disappearing French Socialist Party," 21 June 2018 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

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about epithet

Listen to Our Podcast about epithet

Statistics for epithet

Last Updated

19 May 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for epithet

The first known use of epithet was in 1579

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on epithet

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

to speak slightingly about or to degrade

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Challenging Vocabulary Quiz Returns!

  • stylized drawing of woman pole vaulting across gap to get trophy
  • Which is a synonym of fuliginous?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Dictionary Devil

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

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!