noun epit·o·me \i-ˈpi-tə-mē\

Definition of epitome

  1. 1a :  a summary of a written workb :  a brief presentation or statement of something

  2. 2 :  a typical or ideal example :  embodiment the British monarchy itself is the epitome of tradition — Richard Joseph

  3. 3 :  brief or miniature form —usually used with in


play \ˌe-pə-ˈtä-mik\ or


play \ˌe-pə-ˈtä-mi-kəl\ adjective

epitome was our Word of the Day on 05/27/2012. Hear the podcast!

Examples of epitome in a sentence

  1. 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

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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

  5. the golden rule is often cited as the epitome of moral conduct: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you

  6. the prestigious prep school prides itself on being widely regarded as the epitome of tradition and old-fashioned values

Did You Know?

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.

Origin and Etymology of epitome

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

First Known Use: 1520

EPITOME Defined for English Language Learners


noun epit·o·me \i-ˈpi-tə-mē\

Definition of epitome for English Language Learners

  • : a perfect example : an example that represents or expresses something very well

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up epitome? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


feeling or affected by lethargy

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