- The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica
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:
- Japanese literature: Origin of the tanka in the Kojiki…word”), a kind of fixed epithet, remained a feature of later poetry.…
- 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…
- Figure of speechFigure of speech, any intentional deviation from literal statement or common usage that emphasizes, clarifies, or embellishes both written and spoken language. Forming an integral part of language, figures of speech are found in primitive oral literatures, as well as in polished poetry and prose…
- RhetoricRhetoric, the principles of training communicators—those seeking to persuade or inform; in the 20th century it has undergone a shift of emphasis from the speaker or writer to the auditor or reader. This article deals with rhetoric in both its traditional and its modern forms. For information on…
- LiteratureLiterature, a body of written works. The name has traditionally been applied to those imaginative works of poetry and prose distinguished by the intentions of their authors and the perceived aesthetic excellence of their execution. Literature may be classified according to a variety of systems,…
More About Epithet
2 references found in Britannica articles
- Homeric epics
- In Homer: Poetic techniques
- Japanese literature
- In Japanese literature: Origin of the tanka in the Kojiki
- Literary Devices – Epithet
- epithet – Student Encyclopedia (Ages 11 and up)
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