From Middle French épithète, from Latin epithetum, epitheton, from Ancient Greek ἐπίθετον (epítheton, epithet, adjective), the neuter of ἐπίθετος (epíthetos, additional), from ἐπιτίθημι (epitíthēmi, to add on), from ἐπι- (epi-, in addition) +‎ τίθημι (títhēmi, to put) (from Proto-Indo-European *dʰeh₁- (to put, to do)).


  • IPA(key): /ˈɛp.ɪˌθɛt/, /ˈɛp.əˌθɛt/
  • (file)
  • Hyphenation: ep‧i‧thet


Examples (term to characterize)
  • the Terrible in Ivan the Terrible
Examples (descriptive substitute)
Examples (biology: part of scientific name of plants, fungi and bacteria)

epithet (plural epithets)

  1. A term used to characterize a person or thing.
    • 1831, Letitia Elizabeth Landon, Romance and Reality, volume 3, page 130:
      She would lean her head for hours on Beatrice's shoulder, only now and then applying to her some childish and endearing epithet.
  2. A term used as a descriptive substitute for the name or title of a person.
  3. One of many formulaic words or phrases used in the Iliad and Odyssey to characterize a person, a group of people, or a thing.
  4. An abusive or contemptuous word or phrase.
    • 2006, Eric L. Goldstein, The Price of Whiteness: Jews, Race, and American Identity:
      Part of this process was the elaboration of new terms for the Jew, especially the increasingly popular epithet “kike”.
  5. (taxonomy) A word in the scientific name of a taxon following the name of the genus or species. This applies only to formal names of plants, fungi and bacteria. In formal names of animals the corresponding term is the specific name.


Derived termsEdit


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


epithet (third-person singular simple present epithets, present participle epitheting, simple past and past participle epitheted)

  1. (transitive) To term; to refer to as.
    He was epitheted "the king of fools".