epiphany

noun

epiph·​a·​ny i-ˈpi-fə-nē How to pronounce epiphany (audio)
plural epiphanies
1
capitalized : January 6 observed as a church festival in commemoration of the coming of the Magi as the first manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles or in the Eastern Church in commemoration of the baptism of Christ
2
: an appearance or manifestation especially of a divine being
3
a(1)
: a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something
(2)
: an intuitive grasp of reality through something (such as an event) usually simple and striking
(3)
: an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure
b
: a revealing scene or moment

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a difference between epiphany and revelation?

Epiphany and revelation have many similarities in meaning; one sense of epiphany is "a revealing scene or moment," and one sense of revelation is "something that is revealed." However, epiphany may also mean "an appearance or manifestation especially of a divine being," a sense not shared by revelation. Additionally, revelation is more likely to be used in the ecclesiastic sense of "an act of revealing or communicating divine truth."

What does epiphany mean in the Bible?

The earliest definition of epiphany refers to the religious observance on January 6: "A church festival in commemoration of the coming of the Magi as the first manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles or in the Eastern Church in commemoration of the baptism of Christ." When used this way it is usually capitalized.

Is there a difference between epiphany and eureka?

Eureka can function as an interjection or an adjective. An interjection is an ejaculatory utterance that usually lacks grammatical connection (someone who has just made a discovery may yell eureka), and an adjective modifies a noun (the person might describe this discovery as a eureka moment). While epiphany may cover some similar semantic terrain (particularly the sense meaning "an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure"), in terms of its function in a sentence, it is a noun.

Example Sentences

Invention has its own algorithm: genius, obsession, serendipity, and epiphany in some unknowable combination. Malcolm Gladwell, New Yorker, 12 May 2008 One day, a New York composer met an expert on Asian domesticated elephants, and together they reached some sort of freakish epiphany and decided to see if elephants could learn to play music. Jon Pareles, New York Times, 5 Jan. 2002 One epiphany came when a dozen engineers in northern New Mexico saw a lone, fading Xerox paper carton bobbing in a swamp of old motor oil at the bottom of a pit. Michelle Conlin, Business Week, 1 Nov. 1999 Seeing her father again when she was an adult was an epiphany that changed her whole view of her childhood.
Recent Examples on the Web Comedian Bill Burr sounds off on cancel culture, feminism, getting bad reviews from his wife and a life-changing epiphany during a fiery stand-up set. Jacob Siegal, BGR, 10 July 2022 These are not sloppy, mawkish performances, and Bercot blesses their restraint with a pietà that is the year’s visual epiphany. Armond White, National Review, 2 Nov. 2022 A few years into their friendship, Kaleka had an epiphany of sorts and picked up the phone. Harmeet Kaur, CNN, 30 Oct. 2022 Frontman Jeremy Enigk had a religious epiphany and made an orchestral solo album that sounded unlike anything that Sunny Day previously recorded. Jonathan Cohen, SPIN, 29 Sep. 2022 This was a difficult moment for him, but also one that lead to a great epiphany and change in his life. Kwame Christian, Forbes, 15 Aug. 2022 This should be a moment for a global epiphany and the voters and the publics in countries around the world need to put a lot more pressure on their political leaders. ABC News, 24 July 2022 When the concert business was sidelined during the early shutdown period of the pandemic, Corabi reached an epiphany. Matt Wake | Mwake@al.com, al, 5 Oct. 2022 Her obsession with craft propelled her explorations, from religious epiphany to elegant abstraction to mythical synthesis. Hamilton Cain, WSJ, 5 Oct. 2022 See More

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

Word History

Etymology

Middle English Epiphanie, borrowed from Anglo-French Epiphane, Epiphanie, borrowed from Late Latin epiphanīa, epiphania "appearance, manifestation, Christ's first manifestation (to the Gentiles in Western tradition)," borrowed from Late Greek epipháneia "appearance, manifestation (of God in the Old Testament, of Christ's first coming or of the Second Coming)," going back to Greek, "appearance, coming into view, manifestation (of a deity to a worshipper), Christ's coming (in the New Testament), visible surface, outward show, fame," noun derivative of epiphanḗs "coming into view, appearing, manifest, evident," adjective derivative from the stem of epiphaínein "to show, display," mediopassive epiphaínesthai "to come into view, be manifested, appear on the the service," from epi- epi- + phaínein "to bring to light, cause to appear," phaínesthai "to become visible, appear" — more at fantasy entry 1

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of epiphany was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near epiphany

Cite this Entry

“Epiphany.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/epiphany. Accessed 30 Nov. 2022.

Kids Definition

Epiphany

noun

Epiph·​a·​ny
i-ˈpif-ə-nē
: January 6 observed as a Christian festival in honor of the coming of the three kings to the infant Jesus or in the Eastern church in commemoration of Jesus' baptism

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