Epitaph vs epithet

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An epitaph is a short remembrance of a deceased person, written in prose or poetry, often inscribed on the grave stone of the individual. An epitaph may also be an idea by which a person, era or project may be remembered. Epitaph appears in the English language in the fourteenth century, from the Greek word, epitaphion, meaning a funeral oration. Related forms are epitaphic, epitaphial.

An epithet is a word or phrase which characterizes a person, usually adjectival. An epithet may be a descriptive title. Often, an epithet is disparaging or abusive.  Epithet first appears in the English language in the sixteenth century, from the Greek epitheton, meaning something added, attributed, assumed. Related words are epithetical, epithetically, epithetic.


Roy Curtis gives Brendan Rodgers a cutting epitaph (The Sunday World)

He cut the headstone himself and composed the epitaph which he inscribed thereon. (The Limerick Leader)

“Here lies One whose Name was writ in Water” is the epitaph that Keats chose for himself as he was dying, and the words are carved into his headstone. (The New Yorker)

By treating us as though we have the intellects of fruit flies, Congress is writing its own political epitaph. (The Myrtle Beach Sun-News)

He believes the grave plaque “inadvertently served as the epitaph to the passing of an eminent club, for it provides the last written reference to the GAA in Lisburn in that era.” (The Irish News)

The president of USC’s undergraduate student government — who was born in India — reports that a fraternity member called her a racial epithet, cursed her and hurled a drink at her through a window last weekend. (The Los Angeles Times)

Kangana Ranaut, who has earned the epithet of Bollywood’s ‘Queen’, feels that instead of hoping to be taken seriously, female actors need to get up and demand it. (The Express Tribune)

But in this campaign, the “compassionate conservative” label has become an epithet. (The Portland Press Herald)