any word or phrase applied to a person or thing to describe an actual or attributed quality: “Richard the Lion-Hearted” is an epithet of Richard I.
a characterizing word or phrase firmly associated with a person or thing and often used in place of an actual name, title, or the like, as “man's best friend” for “dog.”
a word, phrase, or expression used invectively as a term of abuse or contempt, to express hostility, etc.

Origin of epithet

1570–80; < Latin epitheton epithet, adjective < Greek epítheton epithet, something added, equivalent to epi- epi- + the- (variant stem of tithénai to put) + -ton neuter verbid suffix
Related formsep·i·thet·ic, ep·i·thet·i·cal, adjective
Can be confusedepigram epigraph epitaph epithet

Synonyms for epithet

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for epithet

appellation, name, designation, title, tag, sobriquet, description

Examples from the Web for epithet

Contemporary Examples of epithet

Historical Examples of epithet

  • But such an epithet will not long apply to our favourite town.

    The Roof of France

    Matilda Betham-Edwards

  • As we go swiftly on we realize the appropriateness of the epithet ever applied to the Rhne.

    The Roof of France

    Matilda Betham-Edwards

  • Alderling repeated in a tone of amaze at the inadequacy of my epithet.

    Questionable Shapes

    William Dean Howells

  • The epithet "hugged in," which Hetty had used, was the very phrase to best convey it.

  • These persons she stigmatizes with the epithet of tideless-blooded.

British Dictionary definitions for epithet



a descriptive word or phrase added to or substituted for a person's name"Lackland" is an epithet for King John
Derived Formsepithetic or epithetical, adjective

Word Origin for epithet

C16: from Latin epitheton, from Greek, from epitithenai to add, from tithenai to put
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 epithet

1570s, "descriptive name for a person or thing," from Middle French épithète or directly from Latin epitheton, from Greek epitheton "something added," adjective often used as noun, from neuter of epithetos "attributed, added," from epitithenai "to add on," from epi "in addition" (see epi-) + tithenai "to put" (see factitious).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper