Definition of epithet in English:



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

    ‘old men are often unfairly awarded the epithet “dirty.”’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘In Ancient Greek poetry, poets used epithets to make names fit the metrical patterns they composed within.’
    • ‘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‘.’
    • ‘In Sanskrit, the Moon has many names and epithets.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Forms of address, epithets, and pronoun references that signal service and status, then clashes of rank, also get interwoven.’
    • ‘I learnt that because of your game, you had picked up several endearing epithets.’
    • ‘Judging by the epithet you've awarded him, I take it you weren't unduly impressed.’
    • ‘This is not a personal name but an epithet of those who have achieved enlightenment, the goal of the Buddhist religious life.’
    • ‘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’.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Family names are arranged alphabetically beneath the divisions, and within each family the generic names and epithets are also alphabetized.’
    sobriquet, nickname, byname, title, name, label, tag
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 An epithet as a term of abuse.
      ‘the woman begins to hurl racial epithets at them’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Instead of hurling epithets, the observers hurl objects.’
      • ‘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?’
      • ‘They dismiss such work as nihilist or antiscience, and hurl epithets like ‘number-phobic’ and ‘jargon-monger’ at its authors.’
      • ‘‘Master’ and ‘slave’ are ordinary English words, not epithets, and it's absurd to try and ban them from common usage.’
      • ‘Such differences as exist among media do not warrant harsher treatment of threats, slurs, epithets, or harassing language because they occur in digital form.’
      • ‘He went on a rampage when he was arrested Friday on suspicion of drunk driving, hurling religious epithets.’
      • ‘'Cheap' and 'classless' are just two of the kinder epithets hurled at the linebacker.’
      • ‘So when he starts to verbally assault Zack, hurling painful epithets at him, one feels disoriented since they seemed to get along in school.’
      • ‘Either she'll be touched to be rediscovered or she'll be very, very indignant and hurl ethnocentric epithets.’
      • ‘Moe picks up an identical thick-bladed knife and hurls it at Whitford with an epithet.’
      • ‘The woman begins to hurl racial epithets at them and goes as far as to hit one of the students.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Hurling homophobic epithets has become the prime means of harassing and humiliating any student - gay or straight - who is seen as vulnerable.’
      • ‘He shrieks where he should argue, and hurls vulgar epithets in my direction.’
      • ‘When we characterise these tendencies as centrist and opportunist, this is not some kind of epithet or swear word.’
      • ‘He noticed that most of the other words were racist epithets or the standard obscenities.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘It's sometimes hurled in an epithet, sometimes spoken with pride.’
      • ‘And I use the word ‘bloody’ not as a redundant and offensive epithet, but as a statement of fact.’


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.