- any word or phrase applied to a person or thing to describe an actual or attributed quality: “Richard the Lion-Hearted” is an epithet of Richard I.
- a characterizing word or phrase firmly associated with a person or thing and often used in place of an actual name, title, or the like, as “man’s best friend” for “dog.”
- a word, phrase, or expression used invectively as a term of abuse or contempt, to express hostility, etc.
- a descriptive word or phrase added to or substituted for a person’s name“Lackland” is an epithet for King John
1570s, “descriptive name for a person or thing,” from Middle French épithète or directly from Latin epitheton, from Greek epitheton “something added,” adjective often used as noun, from neuter of epithetos “attributed, added,” from epitithenai “to add on,” from epi “in addition” (see epi-) + tithenai “to put” (see factitious).