Figure Name epitheton
Source Silva Rhetoricae (http://humanities.byu.edu/rhetoric/Silva.htm); Macbeth (1876) ("epithetic"); De Mille (1882) ("epithets")
Earliest Source None
Synonyms appositum, sequens epithet, qualifier, figure of attribution, epithetic, epithets
Etymology from Gk. epithets "placed upon, added"
Type Chroma
Linguistic Domain

1. Attributing to a person or thing a quality or description—sometimes by the simple addition of a descriptive adjective; sometimes through a descriptive or metaphorical apposition. (Silva Rhetoricae)

2. Epitheton, called of Quintillian Appositum, of others Adjectiuum: Is a figure ofr forme of speech, which joyneth Adjectives to those Substantives, to whom they do properly belong, and that either to praise or dispraise, to amplifie or extenuate. (Peacham)

3. Epithetic, the use of striking epithets, not nicknames, may impart so characteristic an expression to an author's productions as to call for a special place as a figure. (Macbeth)

4. 137. EPITHETS.
Epithets may be considered as figures of contiguity, since they depend upon the association of things with the appropriate qualities.
An epithet is a word joiner to another in order to explain its character; as, "the azure sky;" "the briny deep;" "William the Conqueror;" "Stonewall Jackson." (De Mille)

5. Substantive epithets indicate what the thing is, and include all titles, surnames, nicknames, and other special designations by which the nature of a thing may be stated. (De Mille)

5. Attributive epithets indicate what the thing is like. Substantive epithets have the force of substantives, and may be resolved into names or titles; attributive epithets have an adjective force, and indicate qualities. (De Mille)


1. The following example is epitheton using a simple adjective added to a noun. As Quintilian suggests, the epithet is made stronger when metaphorical, as this is: "unfettered joy"

Epitheton is sometimes used in the conventional names or descriptive slogans found in oral-formulaic poetry: rosy-fingered dawn; swift-footed Achilles

A series of following appositions constitute this use of epitheton: Anchises, worthy deigned
Of Venus' glorious bed, beloved of heaven,
Twice rescued from the wreck of Pergamum
—Vergil, Aeneid 3.475 (Silva Rhetoricae)

2. To praise thus: O wonderfull clemencie, O most holy discipline. Hence it is, that we say: Gracious Princes, honorable Judges, reverend Fathers, prudent Counsellors, valiant Captaines, deare parents, vigilant Pastors, godly Ministers, faithfull friends, just Stewards, painfull labourers, & c.(Peacham)

2. Another: A Prince of singular prudence, of valiant courage, of incomparable magnanimitie, of invincible fortitude, of famous activitie, of most happy successe, & most fortunate dexteritie. Sometime the Epithet is put after his substantive, & that most elegantly, as in this example of Tertullian: We pray (saith he) for all Princes, that their life may be long, their kingdome secure, their court safe, their armies strong, their counsellers trustie, their people good, the whole world quiet, and whatsoever else that subject of Prince do desire to enjoy. (Peacham)

Kind Of Identity
Part Of
Related Figures
Notes Note: If the description is given in place of the name, instead of in addition to it, it becomes antonomasia or periphrasis.
Confidence Unconfident
Last Editor Samantha Price
Confidence Unconfident
Editorial Notes
Reviewed No