- an inscription, especially on a building, statue, or the like.
- an apposite quotation at the beginning of a book, chapter, etc.
- a quotation at the beginning of a book, chapter, etc, suggesting its theme
- an inscription on a monument or building
1620s, “inscription on a building, statue, etc.,” from Greek epigraphe “an inscription,” from epigraphein “to write on,” from epi “on” (see epi-) + graphein “to write” (see -graphy). Sense of “motto; short, pithy sentence at the head of a book or chapter” first recorded in English 1844.