Definition of epic in English:

epic

noun

  • 1A long poem, typically one derived from ancient oral tradition, narrating the deeds and adventures of heroic or legendary figures or the past history of a nation.

    • ‘Besides the Homeric epics, his works represent the best manuscript tradition from Classical antiquity.’
    • ‘These soundbites will then be taken even further out of context by rival spinners and talking heads until they are told an retold, like the great epics of oral tradition, or a game of Telephone!’
    • ‘Hitherto, male storytelling took place in the public space and was associated with the narration of epics or factual events, current or past.’
    • ‘The book she was completing when she passed in 2000 is a collection of epics and shorter lyric poems that affirm her place as one of the most significant and masterful poets of the 20th century.’
    • ‘Homer not only composed the two epics that now bear his name, but he also composed numerous hymns.’
    • ‘Some scholars have linked the introduction of narratives with oral epics current in the 8th century.’
    • ‘We are often expected to teach dance, religion, mythology, epics, folklore, history, culture, customs, traditions, language… and music.’
    • ‘Traditional beliefs and views are subverted as a searching look is directed at figures and heroines from our epics, myths and legends.’
    • ‘The ancient epic had its counterpart in athletic contests just as the medieval romance had its counterpart in jousts and tournaments between knights.’
    • ‘Maybe she was some sort of scribe, writing epics about their heroic journey?’
    • ‘Happily did he write epics according to ancient rule; no one was impressed.’
    • ‘I was pained to see that our very history and epics had barely created a ripple in the minds of most people.’
    • ‘Perhaps, Milton's England makes the author of the brief epic more severe towards the humanist tradition he has inherited than Elizabethan England does for Spenser.’
    • ‘Through the centuries the Homeric epics have influenced writers and philosophers for many different countries.’
    • ‘Still, in most such cultures it seems to be normal to repeat stories or sagas or epics of the past that to a limited extent explain, if not the present, then some aspect of custom or faith.’
    • ‘The poem also creates an epic that centers on mortal characters rather than heroes or the gods.’
    • ‘In taking the nationalistic, idealized and ancient form of the epic and combining it with a narrative of mercantile discovery, Camões embodies early modern epistemological anxiety.’
    • ‘A welter of poems, plays, epics and narrative poetry came into existence all at once, altering the landscape of literary activity in Bengal forever.’
    • ‘The poem is an epic of the First Crusade, with the addition of romantic and fabulous elements.’
    • ‘The suggestion appealed to him and he decided to compose an epic to extol the achievements of Abdullah Khan.’
    heroic poem, long poem, long story
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    1. 1.1mass noun The genre of epics.
      ‘the romances display gentler emotions not found in Greek epic’
      • ‘Walcott's metaphoric take on epic is so powerfully originative as to put the whole genre in a new light.’
      • ‘It must be allowed that Dryden would have been hard-pressed to find another episode from ancient epic which so peculiarly recalled recent history.’
      • ‘Before Cervantes, narrative could exhaust itself in a single reading of the past: the epic, or of the present: the picaresque.’
      • ‘Likewise, in the Metamorphoses Ovid subverts the epic, the literary genre best suited to Augustus's program of cultural classicism.’
      • ‘In epic, there is oral recitation: a poet directly confronting the listening audience.’
      • ‘He engages with an unprecedented range of Greek and Roman writing; every genre, not just epic, leaves its mark in the poem's idiom.’
      • ‘Since he writes neither drama nor epic, he said, his poetry can only be lyrical.’
      • ‘In this ambience the Pope, versed in classical epic, devised the programme for Michelangelo's Last Judgement, in which a warrior Christ thunderbolts the stunted damned.’
    2. 1.2 A long film, book, or other work portraying heroic deeds and adventures or covering an extended period of time.
      ‘a Hollywood biblical epic’
      • ‘Indoors there is, or was, a fabulous curved screen perfect for widescreen epics.’
      • ‘And how large IS the audience demand for sand and sandals epics?’
      • ‘Many fantasy epics give us colorful enemies with distinct personalities to confuse us.’
      • ‘The tragedy of this conception, and the intelligence with which it is executed on screen, makes it unique among film epics.’
      • ‘Too often the film comes across more like a tribute to old-fashioned swashbuckling epics than a solid story in its own right, and the result is diverting enough but lacks dramatic heft.’
      • ‘While it fails as an epic, the film does have many supernatural elements.’
      • ‘And historical epics don't have the power that they used to.’
      • ‘His script is unfocused, his direction uneasy; this film even lacks the visual splendor normally associated with epics and costume dramas.’
      • ‘Oddly melancholy for a fantasy epic, the film overflows with sorrow for love lost, love unrequited, and the agony of lovers separated by the void of death.’
      • ‘His next works could be seen as sweeping epics, describing the history and hopes of the people of Taiwan.’
      • ‘What kind of biblical epic would you all like to see?’
      • ‘Instead it is an adequate film masquerading as an epic.’
      • ‘During the silent era, Italian cinema became famous for its lavish historical epics.’
      • ‘But why create a fictional romance in a historical epic and then do very little to make viewers care anything about that story?’
      • ‘Henry James is not a name that springs to mind when we think of adventure stories, prose epics or historical fiction.’
      • ‘Ibsen's sprawling epic is the kind of play it shouldn't be possible to stage.’
      • ‘Unfortunately, the creators also introduce an element that has killed many a fantasy adventure epic: comic relief.’
      • ‘Instead, it depicts a creature far more readily found in the collective imagination of the male contingent of its adolescent target audience, and tells a story almost as implausible as any sword and sorcery epic.’
      • ‘"This is a sprawling historical epic, portraying Rio de Janeiro in the 19th century.’
      • ‘But this time I caved into temptation and went to see the latest war epic to spew out of Hollywood.’
      epic film, long film
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  • 2informal An exceptionally long and arduous task or activity.

    ‘the business of getting hospital treatment soon became an epic’
    • ‘I remember him appearing one morning, after his epic in sheeting rain where we'd all made the exception and accepted parental lifts.’
    • ‘In the great epic of human activity, lunchtime is a relatively marginal interlude; but in the biography of a specific individual, what he thought and when is vital.’

adjective

  • 1Relating to or characteristic of an epic or epics.

    ‘our national epic poem Beowulf’
    • ‘By the seventh century, scribes had written down Anglo-Saxon Chronicles and the oral epic poem, Beowulf.’
    • ‘JRR Tolkien, after all, was a pioneering scholar of Anglo-Saxon poetry and wrote a definitive reinterpretation of the epic poem.’
    • ‘The most famous early bardic poets, Taliesin and Aneirin, wrote epic poems about Welsh events and legends around the seventh century.’
    • ‘The production is based on the epic poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow about a Native American named Hiawatha, a real man who lived some 500 years ago.’
    • ‘The editor in him couldn't resist trying to translate the great epic poem into English.’
    • ‘Scouring the Latvian woods and lakeside territories for the capercaillie is reminiscent of Lewis Carroll's epic poem ‘The Hunting of the Snark’.’
    • ‘He legitimated the cultivation of lyrical tropes, as the poet used them to enrich what is otherwise a lofty epic poem on the First Crusade.’
    • ‘That's because Oxford classicists have finally unwrapped the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, discovering hundreds of lost Greek comedies, tragedies and epic poems.’
    • ‘Samuel Taylor Coleridge said in the introduction to his epic poem Kubla Khan that he had ‘heard’ the whole thing in an opium-induced slumber.’
    • ‘To kill one, whether or not with a crossbow, as in Coleridge's epic poem, was considered the ultimate omen of bad luck.’
    • ‘Christopher Marlowe's epic poem Hero and Leander, which is based on an ancient Greek myth, says more about the customs of contemporary England than of the ancient Greeks.’
    • ‘The hero El Cid, who became the subject of an epic poem, modeled these qualities.’
    • ‘Milton formed the intention of writing a great epic poem, as he tells us, as early as 1639.’
    • ‘Seamus Heaney is one of the United Kingdom's most respected poets and Beowulf stands as one of the greatest epic poems in English literature.’
    • ‘In these workshops, interactive in nature and aimed as an intercultural dialogue, he sets out ‘towards an exploration’ of the epic poem.’
    • ‘When he starts reciting epic poetry in gravelly French it is rather overwhelming.’
    • ‘As he says in the introduction, ‘There is an attempt here to create an epic poem.’’
    • ‘Biographers were ever the under-belly of the literary world, patronised because they weren't epic poets or triple-decker novelists, and demonised as gossips and sneaks.’
    • ‘The heroes of most epic poems, in particular, can be seen as symbolic and fictitious figures invented and contrived by poets to convey religious and political ideals.’
    • ‘The epic poem ‘Beowulf’ will be performed on the night.’
    heroic, long, grand, monumental, vast, homeric, miltonian
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  • 2Heroic or grand in scale or character.

    ‘his epic journey around the world’
    ‘a tragedy of epic proportions’
    • ‘But, I should begin at the beginning, where all epic tales begin.’
    • ‘Taken together - 1,174 pages in total - these books form an epic trilogy.’
    • ‘I know that as epic as the performances of the athletes were, there were similarly heroic contributions that are almost entirely overlooked.’
    • ‘The castaways in time begin an epic journey across a transformed world.’
    • ‘I did enjoy it but for a blockbuster I expected a more epic vision.’
    • ‘The poem describes an epic battle between giants and the Greek gods and includes imagery of a great battle far out at sea.’
    • ‘Maybe I could tell you that our feat of alcohol consumption was of truly epic proportions.’
    • ‘IT has been a truly epic journey, some 10 years in the making.’
    • ‘Both species can engage in river journeys of epic scale.’
    • ‘And even though it will be a more epic tale, it will be done in the right way.’
    • ‘My problem with this book is that while epic in scope it isn't in storytelling.’
    • ‘We had some epic battles but we feel we have done ourselves justice.’
    • ‘A few minutes after the race, we found out that it had been a truly epic battle.’
    • ‘In fact it could represent a problem of almost epic proportions.’
    • ‘Great epic adventures don't need a voice!’
    • ‘I'm trying to tell you about something of grand, epic proportions.’
    • ‘He says it was the most epic thing he had ever been involved in.’
    • ‘At certain moments, their set achieved almost epic proportions.’
    • ‘The first movie in the epic trilogy will keep you glued to your seat.’
    • ‘The pictures tell a more epic tale than a million words could.’
    ambitious, heroic, grand, arduous, extraordinary, herculean
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    1. 2.1informal Particularly impressive or remarkable.
      ‘the gig last night was epic’
      ‘these CEOs are paid salaries and bonuses in the millions despite their epic failures’
      • ‘It was epic, there was even discussion of a fight on the basketball court.’
      • ‘Connoisseurs of box office bombs will no doubt be aware of its epic failure at the box office ($500,000 gross versus a $40 million budget).’
      • ‘Is this a good thing, I wondered, or an epic waste of time?’
      • ‘Celebrity guests from the worlds of hip-hop and Hollywood gathered for the epic party, which lasted long into the early hours of Friday morning.’
      • ‘Dave's like me, he's not the kind of guy who turns down the chance of an epic night out.’
      • ‘They put in a cover of Frankie Goes To Hollywood's Power of Love, which was epic.’
      • ‘Look, I'm making an effort to snap out of the epic sulk brought on by all this.’
      • ‘It was epic just to surf down there with no one around.’
      • ‘It was epic, to say the least, and an absolutely perfect way to end the night.’
      • ‘Last night I went out with Saige and her friend Craig from Sydney, which meant a night of epic drinking.’
      • ‘Mind you we still have some epic nights here as we have a beer garden which has a marquee for all weather events.’
      • ‘Besides my epic fail at writing lyrics tonight, it was a relaxing, fun and productive evening behind my six string.’
      • ‘He was a part-time alcoholic, prone to epic drinking bouts, who buried scores of bottles of gin in the back garden for emergencies.’
      • ‘Your review, though diplomatic, is completely off the mark - this film is an epic time waster.’
      • ‘If they want to call this "eco friendly", all I can say is "epic fail".’
      • ‘I got over my pain (which was epic) and am now deliriously happy.’
      • ‘Am I just setting myself up for an epic failure?’
      • ‘I spent the better part of this week studying for a Health Assessment lecture exam, which turned out to be an epic waste of time.’
      • ‘The riding was epic, the scenery was beautiful, and the resort was very accommodating.’
      • ‘In stark contrast to last year's epic birthday bash, this year's celebrations will be deliberately low-key.’

Origin

Late 16th century (as an adjective): via Latin from Greek epikos, from epos ‘word, song’, related to eipein ‘say’.

Pronunciation

epic

/ˈɛpɪk/