views updated Jun 27 2018

1. An expression added to a NAME as a characterizing description, before it in glorious Devon, after it in Richard Crookback, with a definite article in William the Conqueror, Scotland the Brave.

2. Also Homeric epithet, poetic epithet. A formulaic phrase containing an adjective and a noun, common in epic poetry: grey-eyed Athene, rosy-fingered dawn, the wine-dark sea.

3. A word or phrase that substitutes for another: man's best friend for dog, the water of life for whisky.

4. A word or phrase used to abuse and dismiss: bastard, bugger, shit, especially when used directly (You shit!, You son of a bitch!) or as a description (The silly old cow!).

5. Such a phrase as that idiot of a lawyer and a devil of a doctor.

6. An adjective or other descriptive word. See ANTONOMASIA, SWEARING.


views updated May 11 2018

ep·i·thet / ˈepəˌ[unvoicedth]et/ • n. an adjective or descriptive phrase expressing a quality characteristic of the person or thing mentioned: old men are often unfairly awarded the epithet “dirty.” ∎  such a word or phrase as a term of abuse: he felt an urge to hurl epithets in his face. ∎  a descriptive title: the epithet “Father of Waters,” poetically used for the Mississippi River.DERIVATIVES: ep·i·thet·ic / epəˈ[unvoicedth]etik/ adj.


views updated May 11 2018

epithet XVI. — F. épithète or L. epitheton, sb. use of n. of Gr. epíthetos attributed, pp. adj. of epitithénai put on or to, f. EPI- + tithénai place.