Definition of epithet in English:



  • 1An adjective or phrase expressing a quality or attribute regarded as characteristic of the person or thing mentioned.

    ‘old men are often unfairly awarded the epithet ‘dirty’’
    • ‘This is not a personal name but an epithet of those who have achieved enlightenment, the goal of the Buddhist religious life.’
    • ‘There is no epithet deficit when it comes to describing today's crisis of business leadership: greedy, unethical, and myopic appear regularly on the adjectival hot list.’
    • ‘Looking up at the city's facades and trying to describe each of them with just one epithet was like constantly checking with my brain's in-built thesaurus for the synonyms of ‘ugly’.’
    • ‘Everything was done to make us throw away sobriety of thought and calmness of judgment and to inflate all expressions with sensational epithets and turgid phrases.’
    • ‘I learnt that because of your game, you had picked up several endearing epithets.’
    • ‘The normal way round is the creation of an identifying tag, normally by a pertinent epithet or nickname - hence I would become Fat James, or Green James, or Elf.’
    • ‘Among them was Bill Shankly accompanied, even here, by what have become his defining epithets: ‘the legend, the genius, the man‘.’
    • ‘Family names are arranged alphabetically beneath the divisions, and within each family the generic names and epithets are also alphabetized.’
    • ‘Possibly, we tend to confine moral epithets to those amiable or unamiable qualities which require more cultivation to become habitual, or depend to a greater extent upon the presence or absence of self-discipline.’
    • ‘In Sanskrit, the Moon has many names and epithets.’
    • ‘Forms of address, epithets, and pronoun references that signal service and status, then clashes of rank, also get interwoven.’
    • ‘Judging by the epithet you've awarded him, I take it you weren't unduly impressed.’
    • ‘In Ancient Greek poetry, poets used epithets to make names fit the metrical patterns they composed within.’
    sobriquet, nickname, byname, title, name, label, tag
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1An epithet used as a term of abuse.
      ‘the woman begins to hurl racial epithets at them’
      • ‘When we characterise these tendencies as centrist and opportunist, this is not some kind of epithet or swear word.’
      • ‘The woman begins to hurl racial epithets at them and goes as far as to hit one of the students.’
      • ‘He noticed that most of the other words were racist epithets or the standard obscenities.’
      • ‘‘Master’ and ‘slave’ are ordinary English words, not epithets, and it's absurd to try and ban them from common usage.’
      • ‘So when he starts to verbally assault Zack, hurling painful epithets at him, one feels disoriented since they seemed to get along in school.’
      • ‘Instead of hurling epithets, the observers hurl objects.’
      • ‘Hurling homophobic epithets has become the prime means of harassing and humiliating any student - gay or straight - who is seen as vulnerable.’
      • ‘There were times when ignorant people would throw bottles at me and hurl racial epithets while my brother and I walked down the street - that sort of thing.’
      • ‘In many people's minds free speech is a ‘right’ to hurl epithets at politically correct wusses, and to do so with no fear of having your fraternity suspended.’
      • ‘And I use the word ‘bloody’ not as a redundant and offensive epithet, but as a statement of fact.’
      • ‘He shrieks where he should argue, and hurls vulgar epithets in my direction.’
      • ‘They don't actually do the deed, or even attempt it, but the book is - according to early snippets - replete with deep-seated anger and elegantly nasty epithets hurled at both the President and his cabinet.’
      • ‘Moe picks up an identical thick-bladed knife and hurls it at Whitford with an epithet.’
      • ‘Either she'll be touched to be rediscovered or she'll be very, very indignant and hurl ethnocentric epithets.’
      • ‘I understand the city has a rich history of standing up for freedom, but is the freedom to hurl curses and racial epithets at visiting collegiate athletes really one worth fighting for?’
      • ‘He went on a rampage when he was arrested Friday on suspicion of drunk driving, hurling religious epithets.’
      • ‘It's sometimes hurled in an epithet, sometimes spoken with pride.’
      • ‘Such differences as exist among media do not warrant harsher treatment of threats, slurs, epithets, or harassing language because they occur in digital form.’
      • ‘They dismiss such work as nihilist or antiscience, and hurl epithets like ‘number-phobic’ and ‘jargon-monger’ at its authors.’
      • ‘'Cheap' and 'classless' are just two of the kinder epithets hurled at the linebacker.’


Late 16th century: from French épithète, or via Latin from Greek epitheton, neuter of epithetos attributed, from epitithenai add, from epi upon + tithenai to place.