What Does Epithet Mean

What Does Epithet Mean

An epithet is a descriptive term for a person, place, or a thing that have come into common usage. It is usually based on a real characteristic of the person or name. Epithet can also be described as a glorified nickname. The term epithet comes from Greek epitheton, means attributed and added. As this meaning suggests, an epithet is an attributed name.

Epithets help us to identify and distinguish people. For example, think of the kings and emperors of the past. Names like Henry, Richard, William, etc. are very common in history. Therefore, epithets that refer to some of their qualities become very helpful.

Examples of Epithets

Richard the Lionheart

William the Conqueror

Suleiman the Magnificent

Alexander the Great

Alexis I the Quiet

Macbeth of Scotland, the Red King

Alfred the Great

Isabella, the she-wolf of France

Ivan IV, the Terrible

Abraham Lincoln, the Great Emancipator

Michael Jackson, the King of Pop

What Does Epithet Mean

Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen

Epithets often add a certain legendary quality to a character. Many old works of literature such as Beowulf, Homer’s Odyssey, Arthurian legends, etc. contain many examples of epithets. Today, many writers of historical and fantasy fiction use epithets.

  • In J.K Rowling’s famous Harry Potter, Harry is known by the epithet ‘the Boy Who Lived’.

“He couldn’t know that at this very moment, people meeting in secret all over the country were holding up their glasses and saying in hushed voices: “To Harry Potter – the boy who lived!” 

  • George R.R. Martin is another contemporary author who uses epithets to make his characters seem more historically real. Robert Baratheon – the Usurper, Ramsay Snow – the Bastard of Bolton, Tyrion Lannister – the Imp, Loras Tyrell – the Knight of Flowers, Jamie Lannister – the King Slayer are some more examples of epithets used by the author.

“That arrow hit too close to the mark. “I learned from the White Bull and Barristan the Bold,” Jaime snapped. “I learned from Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning, who could have slain all five of you with his left hand while he was taking with a piss with the right. I learned from Prince Lewyn of Dorne and Ser Oswell Whent and Ser Jonothor Darry, good men every one.”

“Dead men, every one.”

  •  J.R.R. Tolkien also uses epithets in his fantasy novels, the Lord of the Ring Trilogy. This use of epithets has helped him to create a sense of history and legend. Given below is an excerpt from The Fellowship of the Ring.

“Radagast the Brown!” laughed Saruman, and he no longer concealed his scorn. “Radagast the Bird-Tamer! Radagast the Simple! Radagast the Fool! Yet he had just the wit to play the part that I set him. For you have come, and that was all the purpose of my message. And here you will stay, Gandalf the Grey, and rest from journeys. For I am Saruman the Wise, Saruman Ring-Maker, Saruman of Many Colours!” 

Image Courtesy:

Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I By Nicholas Hilliard (Details of artist on Google Art Project) – VgG8ronTPh8jDg at Google Cultural Institute, zoom level maximum, (Public Domain) via

About the Author: admin

Related pages

what is bmr and rmrconcrete noun abstract nounthe difference between a turtle and tortoisemodulus rigiditynarration description essaywhat is a closed syllable worddifference between rhythm and rhymeboarding expenses meansligand field theorydefine cerealwhy india called bharatdefine heat capacity in chemistrycpi calculations formuladifference between generator and alternatorsn2 rate determining steppolar moment of inertia formuladifference between cougar and mountain liontypes of assonancedifference between esthetician aestheticiandipole-dipole forces chemistry definitionlife expectancy of english mastiffdifference between abiotic and biotic componentsabstract and concrete nounare snakes cold blooded or warm bloodedconvex lens wikipediawhat is the difference between astronomy and astrologywhat is the difference between a folktale and a fairytaleexplain the process of double fertilizationpsychoanalysis vs psychodynamicdefine juxtaposition examplesfour differences between viruses and bacteriaallude meanspigs hogsauxiliary verb modalcalzone stromboli differenceexons definition biologywhat is a proton neutron and electronuses of alliterationoratorio definitionwhat is the difference of prose and poetryglycolysis vs gluconeogenesiswhat is the difference between awaiting and waitingmicronutrients and macronutrientsturtles vs tortoiseexamples of affixdistillation chemistry definitionjaundice hepatitisis sodium bicarbonate baking powderdifference between vaporization and evaporationsouth indian temples architecturewhat does the new zealand flag meanwhat does paralanguage meandifference between thai basil and basilcentripetal force and centrifugal forcehow to teach sentence constructionfundamental difference between covalent and ionic bondingtax refund scheme sydneyabstract concrete nounsdefine tyndall effectsugar beet vs sugar canereciprocating meaning in hindiexamples of sexual and asexual reproductionindian smoochingdeoxyribose formulawhat is a progressive wavefair homonymdifference between pure honey and raw honeyshark and whale differenceswallabies vs kangaroosdefinition fianceare green onions the same as scallionsunits for kinematic viscositydefine ultimate tensile strengthsmooch kissingdifference between sociology and anthropologyare vitamins macronutrientsconscious or subconsciousevaporation and vapourisationacculturate definitionmorpheme and phonemepeasants and serfsdifference between internal respiration and external respirationhypo vs hypertonic