Epitome first appeared in print in 1520, 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 in your synopsis, and the etymology of epitome reflects this process. The word descends from Greek epitemnein, meaning "to cut short," which in turn was formed from the prefix epi- and the verb temnein, which means "to cut." Your summary probably also presents all the key points of the original work, which may explain why epitome eventually came to be used for anything (such as a person or object) that is a clear or good example of an abstraction.
Examples of epitome in a Sentence
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. 2001Manchester, then known as 'Cottonopolis' and perceived throughout the world as the epitome of the whirling fierceness of the industrial revolution. …— Roy Jenkins, Gladstone, (1995) 1997Hamilton 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 1990I 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
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'epitome.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.