ep·​och | \ ˈe-pək How to pronounce epoch (audio) , ˈe-ˌpäk, US also and British usually ˈē-ˌpäk How to pronounce epoch (audio) \

Definition of epoch

1a : an event or a time marked by an event that begins a new period or development
b : a memorable event or date
2a : an extended period of time usually characterized by a distinctive development or by a memorable series of events
b : a division of geologic time less than a period and greater than an age
3 : an instant of time or a date selected as a point of reference (as in astronomy)

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Synonyms for epoch


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period, epoch, era, age mean a division of time. period may designate an extent of time of any length. periods of economic prosperity epoch applies to a period begun or set off by some significant or striking quality, change, or series of events. the steam engine marked a new epoch in industry era suggests a period of history marked by a new or distinct order of things. the era of global communications age is used frequently of a fairly definite period dominated by a prominent figure or feature. the age of Samuel Johnson

Did You Know?

Epoch comes to us, via Medieval Latin, from Greek epochē, meaning "cessation" or "fixed point." "Epochē," in turn, comes from the Greek verb epechein, meaning "to pause" or "to hold back." When "epoch" was first borrowed into English, it referred to the fixed point used to mark the beginning of a system of chronology. That sense is now obsolete, but today "epoch" is used in some fields (such as astronomy) with the meaning "an instant of time or a date selected as a point of reference." The "an event or a time that begins a new period or development" sense first appeared in print in the early 17th century, and "epoch" has been applied to defining moments or periods of time ever since.

Examples of epoch in a Sentence

The Civil War era was an epoch in 19th-century U.S. history. The development of the steam engine marked an important epoch in the history of industry.
Recent Examples on the Web Each cycle of automation in these markets reveals a cycle of evolution from research projects into financially successful business — and each epoch is marked by increasingly kinesthetically intelligent agents. Cyra Richardson, Forbes, "Robotics: Delivering 60,000,000 Years Of Evolution Within 60 Years," 7 Apr. 2021 Yet as David Thomson has suggested, Hitchcock’s Psycho marked the true start of what would become known as The Sixties, not so much a decade as an epoch. John Banville, The New Republic, "The Haunted Imagination of Alfred Hitchcock," 1 Apr. 2021 How can this power in art be used as leverage during an epoch of disaster capitalism, when works by Black artists are being sold in secondary markets for 10 times what they were sold for in the first? Taylor Renee Aldridge, Harper's BAZAAR, ""Art is a Way to Exert Power": On HBO's "Black Art: In the Absence of Light"," 23 Feb. 2021 An epoch in which pajamas on the red carpet are just as welcomed as as an outfit-matching mask. Alexis Bennett, Vogue, "Taylor Swift’s Grammy’s Look Is the Perfect Post-Quarantine Party Dress—And It’s Available for Preorder Now," 15 Mar. 2021 Historians will marvel that in this epoch authors began to attach disclaimers to works of historical fiction. Meghan Cox Gurdon, WSJ, "Children’s Books: Defenestrating Dr. Seuss," 5 Mar. 2021 After the dawn comes the epoch of reionization, when the radiation from the first massive stars and other violent astrophysical phenomena sufficiently heated the remaining neutral hydrogen to transform it back to plasma. Anil Ananthaswamy, Scientific American, "Telescopes on Far Side of the Moon Could Illuminate the Cosmic Dark Ages," 15 Jan. 2021 Reading the archeologist Neil Price’s beguiling book feels a little like time travel—and who, in 2020, didn’t feel tempted to drop into another epoch? The New Yorker, "The Best Books We Read in 2020," 1 Dec. 2020 The most recent epoch, the Holocene, began at the end of the last ice age, approximately 12,000 years ago. Doris Elín Urrutia, Scientific American, "Dramatic Scope of the Anthropocene Can Be Seen from Above," 12 Nov. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'epoch.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of epoch

1614, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for epoch

Medieval Latin epocha, from Greek epochē cessation, fixed point, from epechein to pause, hold back, from epi- + echein to hold — more at scheme entry 1

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Last Updated

14 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Epoch.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/epoch. Accessed 17 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for epoch



English Language Learners Definition of epoch

: a period of time that is very important in history


ep·​och | \ ˈe-pək How to pronounce epoch (audio) \

Kids Definition of epoch

: a period that is important or memorable

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