Epithet Epithet in Literature: Definition &amp


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Epithet

literature
Written By:

  • The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica
See Article History

Epithet, an adjective or phrase that is used to express the characteristic of a person or thing, such as Ivan the Terrible . In literature , the term is considered an element of poetic diction , or something that distinguishes the language of poetry from ordinary language. Homer used certain epithets so regularly that they became a standard part of the name of the thing or person described, as in “rosy-fingered Dawn” and “gray-eyed Athena.” The device was used by many later poets, including John Keats in his sonnet “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer”:

Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-browed Homer ruled as his demesne.

Learn More in these related Britannica articles:

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    Homer: Poetic techniques
    …simplest instance is the so-called noun-epithet formulas. These constitute a veritable system, in which every major god or hero possesses a variety of epithets from which the choice is made solely according to how much of the verse, and which part of it, the singer desires to use up. Odysseus…
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More About Epithet

2 references found in Britannica articles

Assorted References

    • Homeric epics
      • In Homer: Poetic techniques
    • Japanese literature
      • In Japanese literature: Origin of the tanka in the Kojiki

    External Websites

    • Literary Devices – Epithet
    Britannica Websites
    Articles from Britannica Encyclopedias for elementary and high school students.
    • epithet – Student Encyclopedia (Ages 11 and up)

    Article History

    Article Contributors


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