[ep-i-graf, -grahf]


an inscription, especially on a building, statue, or the like.
an apposite quotation at the beginning of a book, chapter, etc.

Origin of epigraph

First recorded in 1615–25, epigraph is from the Greek word epigraphḗ inscription. See epi-, -graph
Can be confusedepigram epigraph epitaph epithet
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for epigraph

Contemporary Examples of epigraph

  • Richie Havens, 72 Who opened Woodstock, and thus became the epigraph to the ultimate document of the 1960s?

    The Daily Beast logo
    The Deaths You Missed This Year

    Malcolm Jones, Jimmy So, Michael Moynihan, Caitlin Dickson

    December 30, 2013

  • The author quotes Shelby Foote for the epigraph: “Southerners are very strange about that war.”

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    The Best Civil War Books

    Malcolm Jones

    April 15, 2011

  • But the presidential narrator—and perhaps Giscard himself—reply in the epigraph: “Promise kept.”

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    The Princess and the President

    Eric Pape

    September 23, 2009

Historical Examples of epigraph

British Dictionary definitions for epigraph



a quotation at the beginning of a book, chapter, etc, suggesting its theme
an inscription on a monument or building
Derived Formsepigraphic (ˌɛpɪˈɡræfɪk) or epigraphical, adjectiveepigraphically, adverb

Word Origin for epigraph

C17: from Greek epigraphē; see epigram
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for epigraph

1620s, "inscription on a building, statue, etc.," from Greek epigraphe "an inscription," from epigraphein "to write on," from epi "on" (see epi-) + graphein "to write" (see -graphy). Sense of "motto; short, pithy sentence at the head of a book or chapter" first recorded in English 1844.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper