The UVic Writer's Guide


An epithet is an adjective or adjectival phrase describing a characteristic quality of a person or thing.

For instance, in Homer's Odyssey (eighth century B.C.) the hero is typically referred to by the epithets "enduring," "resourceful," or "sacker of cities"; and the sea is always "wine-dark."

An epithet is also an identifying phrase which substitutes for a noun, such as Pope's reference to scissors as "the fatal engine" in his mock-epic "The Rape of the Lock" (1714).

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Copyright, The Department of English, University of Victoria, 1995
This page updated September 23, 1995