An epithet is a descriptive term for a person, place or thing that has become commonly used. 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 the Greek. epiteton, attributed and added media. As this meaning suggests, an epithet is an attributed name.
Epithets help us identify and distinguish people. For example, think of the kings and emperors of the past. Names like Henry, Richard, William, etc. They are very common in history. Therefore, the epithets that refer to some of its qualities are very useful.
- Richard the heart of Leon
- William the conqueror
- Suleiman the Magnificent
- Alexander the great
- Alexis I the Quiet
- Macbeth of Scotland, the red king
- Alfredo the Great
- Isabella, the wolf of France.
- Ivan IV, the Terrible
- Abraham Lincoln, the great emancipator
- Michael Jackson, the king of pop
The Importance of Epithet
Epithets show just how strong certain character traits or physical traits are, as they come to replace the actual names of people, places, or things. Also known as sobriquets, these longstanding nicknames label the most memorable aspects of kings and queens and also provide simplified names for complicated or scientific concepts.
Examples of Epithets in Literature:
1. Epithets were often used in Greek Mythology to describe the gods or heroes:
a. Grey-eyed Athena
b. White-armed Hera
c. Swift-footed Achilles
2. Shakespeare also made use of epithets in his plays:
a. Star-crossed lovers-describes Romeo and Juliet in Romeo and Juliet
b. “Turn, hell-hound, turn.”-Macduff to Macbeth in Macbeth
c. Fair Ophelia in Hamlet
Like epithet, antonomasia involves the substitution of a name for another. Whereas epithets may be nicknames applied to a wide variety of subjects, antonomasia is the substitution of a well-known and documented name for a famous person. Here are a few examples of antonomasia:
- William Shakespeare as “The Bard.”
- Muhammad Ali as “The Greatest.”
- Aristotle as “The Philosopher.”