Epithet: Definition and Useful Examples of Epithet in Conversation & Literature

Have you ever considered the term epithet and what it means? In this article, we are going to study the definition of an epithet and discover how it can be used during a conversation as well as in literature. We will do this by looking at some examples of epithet as it features in both spoken and written language.


What Is Epithet?

Epithet is a phrase or adjective which is used to express a quality or characteristic which can be attributed, rightly or wrongly to a person or thing. An epithet is a form of figurative language which can be used in spoken conversation and written work to create a more dramatic effect. One might think of an epithet as a type of nickname and as a way to strengthen or display the strength of certain traits of an object, person, place or idea.

Epithet Examples

Epithet in Conversation

You may hear epithet used in day to day conversation, we are now going to take a look at some examples of how epithet might be used in spoken language.

  • My mother is very green-fingered, she loves to do the gardening.
  • The Opilliones spider is commonly referred to as the daddy long legs due to the size of its large legs.
  • I have a pet called Fido, he is man’s best friend.
  • I have walked this weary road for so long.
  • She had a gut feeling about the new boyfriend of her sister.
  • The boy was a real terror, they called him a little good for nothing.
  • My friend Robert thinks that he is the big I am.
  • Shakespeare is commonly known as the bard.
  • Her face displayed wide eyed amazement at the news she had just heard.
  • He cast a watchful eye over the class.
  • This movie was directed by the great Steven Spielberg.
  • The sleeping king was less known by his real name Constantine XI.
  • The character Paul Robinson, in the TV show Neighbours, is more commonly referred to as moneybags or bags.

Epithet in Literature

There may be a use of epithet in written pieces, since the concept can be used as a literary device in order to create characteristics which appear to be more prominent than they are in reality.

  • In the Shakespeare play Romeo and Juliet, he uses an example of epithet in the following line “death was upon her as an untimely frost, laying on the most sweet flower in all the field.”
  • Shakespeare also uses an example of epithet in this quote “Through mad mustachio, purple-hued maltworms.” This is from the work Henry IV.
  • In the work Brendon hills written by A E Housman, we see an example of epithet in the line “the coloured countries” in which the word coloured is used to refer to the springtime where flowers begin to bloom.
  • Rupert Brooke uses many examples of epithet in his work Beauty and beauty, some of these can be seen in the passage “The earth cries sweet and the scattering bright air closes around.”
  • In Ulysses written by James Joyce, we see and example of epithet in the term ‘the scrotum tightening sea.’
  • In the work Egil’s saga written by Snorri Sturluson, we can see an example of epithet in the passage “He was called Harold tangle hair and became known as fair hair later down the line.”
  • Another example of epithet can be seen in William Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet in which he writes “two star crossed lovers will take their lives.”
  • In the book “The fellowship of the ring” from the Lord of the rings trilogy, written by J R R Tolkien, we see an example of epithet in the following speech “Radagast the brown! Saruman laughed and he no longer tried to conceal his rage.


Epithet can be used in both a written context as well as in day to day conversation. It is a form of figurative language which can be used to apply a strength to any given characteristic or trait of a person, object or notion, enforcing its meaning.

It can be used as a literary device in order to make any traits more prominent within a character, giving a more artistic flair to the text.

Epithet Infographic