Epithet

(162 words)
  • Editors

Literary/ Cultural Context Note

  • The Literary Encyclopedia. Volume 12: Global Voices, Global Histories: World Literatures and Cultures.

From Latin epitheton, from Greek, from epitithenai meaning “to add”, an adjective or adjectival cluster that is associated with a particular person or thing and that usually seems to capture their prominent characteristics. For example, “Ethelred the unready”, or “fleet-footed Achilles” in Pope's version of The Iliad. The “transferred epithet” is a special category where the adjective cannot normally be applied to the noun but where its use becomes justified by the added effect thus achieved. For example, in his “Ode to a Nightingale” Keats brilliantly transfers the sense of embalming to darkness:

I cannot see what flowers are at my feet, …
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Citation:
Editors. "Epithet". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 01 November 2001
[http://www.litencyc.com/php/stopics.php?rec=true&UID=353, accessed 31 August 2015.]