An adjective or other descriptive phrase that is regularly used to characterize a person, place, or thing. Phrases such as "Ivan the Terrible" and "Jack the Giant Killer" are epithets. Homer created so many stock epithets in his Illiad and Odyssey that his name has been permanently associated with a particular type of epithet. The Homeric epithet consists of a compound adjective that is regularly used to modify a particular noun. Famous examples are "The wine-dark sea," "the grey-eyes goddess Athena," and "rosy-fingered dawn."

Ep"i*thet (?), n. [L. epitheton, Gr. , fr. added, fr. to add; upon, to + to put, place: cf. F. 'epithete. See Do.]


An adjective expressing some quality, attribute, or relation, that is properly or specially appropriate to a person or thing; as, a just man; a verdant lawn.

A prince [Henry III.] to whom the epithet "worthless" seems best applicable. Hallam.


Term; expression; phrase.

"Stiffed with epithets of war."


Syn. -- Epithet, Title. The name epithet was formerly extended to nouns which give a title or describe character (as the "epithet of liar"), but is now confined wholly to adjectives. Some rhetoricians, as Whately, restrict it still further, considering the term epithet as belonging only to a limited class of adjectives, viz., those which add nothing to the sense of their noun, but simply hold forth some quality necessarily implied therein; as, the bright sun, the lofty heavens, etc. But this restriction does not prevail in general literature. Epithet is sometimes confounded with application, which is always a noun or its equivalent.

© Webster 1913.

Ep"i*thet, v. t.

To describe by an epithet.


Never was a town better epitheted. Sir H. Wotton.

© Webster 1913.

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