epit·​o·​me i-ˈpi-tə-mē How to pronounce epitome (audio)
: a typical or ideal example : embodiment
the British monarchy itself is the epitome of traditionRichard Joseph
: a summary of a written work
: a brief presentation or statement of something
: brief or miniature form
usually used with in
epitomic adjective
or epitomical

Did you know?

Epitome Has Greek Roots

Epitome first appeared in print in the early 16th century, when it was used to mean "summary." If someone asks you to summarize a long paper, you effectively cut it up, mentioning only the most important ideas, and the etymology of epitome reflects this process: it comes from Greek epitemnein, meaning "to cut short." Your summary probably also presents all the key points of the original work, which may explain why epitome eventually came to be used for any person or object that is a clear or good example of an abstraction, as in "the epitome of grace" or "the epitome of health." We could go on and on... or could we?

Example Sentences

Terns, nicknamed sea swallows by fishermen, are superb flying machines, the epitome of beauty on the wing. E. Vernon Laux, New York Times, 21 Aug. 2001
Manchester, then known as 'Cottonopolis' and perceived throughout the world as the epitome of the whirling fierceness of the industrial revolution.  … Roy Jenkins, Gladstone, (1995) 1997
Hamilton thought the bank was a fait accompli, but he had not reckoned on Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Jefferson, the lover of rural virtues, had a deep, almost visceral hatred of banks, the epitome of all that was urban. John Steele Gordon, American Heritage, July/August 1990
I didn't tell him that, at the time, I thought the place to be the epitome of bourgeois comfort; in those days I thought that there was some connection between creative talent and penury. Ishmael Reed, "August Wilson," 1987, in Writin' Is Fightin'1988
the golden rule is often cited as the epitome of moral conduct: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” the prestigious prep school prides itself on being widely regarded as the epitome of tradition and old-fashioned values See More
Recent Examples on the Web At a reasonable $65, these Carrera pilot sunglasses are the epitome of classic Italian beachwear. Nneya Richards, Travel + Leisure, 12 May 2023 Couture gowns, fabulous hairstyling and all, Charlotte and Lady Danbury are the epitome of Black girl magic, but Queen Charlotte injects their stories with something raw and real by exploring the darker sides of that calling. Ineye Komonibo, refinery29.com, 10 May 2023 This bag is the epitome of old reliable — a staple for any self-respecting traveler. Madison Yauger, Peoplemag, 9 May 2023 The Matilda Dress $175 at Hill House Home A dress that's, quite simply, the epitome of springtime botanicals. Halie Lesavage, harpersbazaar.com, 26 Apr. 2023 Your defense of them is the epitome of ignorance and evil. Jonathan Edwards, Washington Post, 25 Apr. 2023 Reactions ranged from the mildly offended to the epitome of outrage, as netizens lamented the comment’s implications during a cost of living crisis and a period of soaring inflation. Alice Hearing, Fortune, 7 Apr. 2023 The epitome of sleek style awaits at a Highland Park home listed with Alex Perry. Allie Beth Allman & Associates, Dallas News, 26 Mar. 2023 Kate, meanwhile, was the epitome of spring in a long poppy red coat dress with big buttons by Eponine London. Rosa Sanchez, Harper's BAZAAR, 5 May 2023 See More

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

Word History


Latin, from Greek epitomē, from epitemnein to cut short, from epi- + temnein to cut — more at tome

First Known Use

1520, in the meaning defined at sense 2a

Time Traveler
The first known use of epitome was in 1520


Dictionary Entries Near epitome

Cite this Entry

“Epitome.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/epitome. Accessed 29 May. 2023.

Kids Definition


epit·​o·​me i-ˈpit-ə-mē How to pronounce epitome (audio)
: a summary of a written work
: a brief statement of the main points or facts
: something thought to represent a basic quality or an ideal example
your response was the epitome of good sense

More from Merriam-Webster on epitome

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