Epitaph vs Epithet: Difference and Comparison

When speaking of the words ‘epitaph’ and Epithet, they can sound very familiar to your ears and even look alike. This is because the prefix that these words have is similar, and the root words to are similar.

Even the meanings of these two words are not at all contradicting as they are used while speaking of any person.

Key Takeaways

  1. An epitaph is a short text honoring a deceased person, inscribed on a tombstone. At the same time, an epithet is a descriptive phrase expressing a quality or characteristic of a person or thing.
  2. Epitaphs commemorate the dead, whereas epithets can be applied to living and non-living entities.
  3. Epithets can be positive or negative, while epitaphs are respectful or commemorative.

Epitaph vs Epithet

An epitaph is a short text or phrase that is inscribed on a tombstone or gravestone in memory of a deceased person. An epithet is a descriptive word or phrase that is used to characterize or identify a person, place, or thing, can be either positive or negative and is used as a nickname or a title.

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An epitaph refers to a funeral oration or a brief text used to honour or refer to a deceased person. Truly speaking, it is a word or a text that is written on a tombstone and can also be used in a metaphorical sense.

Some people themselves give epitaphs to them before their death.

An epithet is a word from Ancient Greek that refers to a byname or an accompanying term used instead of an actual name.

These words are sometimes placed next to a person’s name as an adored nickname, due to which some linguists have debated that they should be counted as pronouns.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonEpitaphEpithet
DefinitionEpitaphs are words written on a tombstone.Epithets are bynames of an individual.
Combination wordsThe words epi and taphos are combined to make epitaphios.The words epi and tithenai are combined to make epithets.
Meaning of combination wordsEpitaphios is related to the funeral.Epithets mean added or attributed.
Consist ofPoems, phrases, texts, or words.Short texts.
UsageEpitaphs are used to honor a deceased person.Epithets are glorified names that are used instead of actual names.

What is Epitaph?

The word epitaph is derived from an Ancient Greek term epitaphios which means a funeral oration. An epitaph is a short-term or text that is used to address or honour a dead person.

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These words are referred to a text that is written on the stone or plaque and sometimes is used in a figurative sense. Sometimes, before death, some people give themselves an epitaph, while others are chosen by the people responsible for the funeral.

These words can be inscribed as prose or a poem verse. Some poets compose an epitaph for themselves before their death, and they are known for that.

Often, epitaphs are referred to concise documentation of the family and the deceased’s profession with a familiar expression of respect and love.

From the time of the Renaissance to the Western culture in the 19th century, epitaphs for prominent personalities became the protracted and pretentious definition of their family origins and careers in Latin.

During the 16th century, epitaphs became more associated with nature and in trade, written phrases or verses were engaged.

In the states of America and Britain, comedic epitaphs were ordinarily found in short verse compositions, riddles, puns, and palindromes on identities and professions.

epitaph

What is Epithet?

An Epithet is a nickname or a descriptive word or phrase that is used instead of an actual name and is used commonly.

An epithet has many meanings and synonyms when applied to professedly real or unreal people, deities, things, and binomial nomenclature.

An epithet may also be used as a descriptive title: for example, Alfred the Great or Suleiman the Magnificent. Epithet can also be referred to as an insulating, slanderous, or contemptuous phrase.

The use of epithet as a euphemism is condemned by Martin Manser along with other defenders of linguistics prescription. Sometimes, an epithet is attached to the original name of a person, or sometimes, it is used in place of the actual name.

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Epithets are described as an adored nickname or name given to an individual by their family or friends, and that’s why some linguists have argued for them to be considered as pronouns.

Epithets are also argued to be a phenomenon with a syntax-semantics interface, as they have components of both pragmatic dimensions. An epithet is associated with its noun by its deep-rooted utilization.

All the adjectives are not considered epithets. An epithet is identifiable when its usage is overall decorative. The epithets are as much decorative as they are neither important to the prompt context nor designed for it specially.

Main Differences Between Epitaph and Epithet

  1. An epitaph is a word or text written on a stone or plaque of a dead person, whereas an epithet is a nickname or a glorified name given to an individual.
  2. The word epitaph is a combination of ‘epi’ and ‘taphos’, which means ‘upon the tomb’, whereas epithet is the combination of ‘epi’ and ‘tithenai’, which means ‘to put on’.
  3. Epitaph is used to recall or honour a deceased person, while epithets are attached after the person’s name or in place of that name.
  4. Epitaphs are found in the form of short text, phrases, or compositions, while epithets are short texts.
  5. Epitaphs are also the documentation of a person’s family history and profession, while epithets are also used as a descriptive title for an individual.
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References
  1. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/annual-of-the-british-school-at-athens/article/laudatory-epithets-in-greek-epitaphs/C18074AC88831D2B32426BD8A71514E5
  2. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1365-3113.2009.00477.x

Last Updated : 13 July, 2023

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7 thoughts on “Epitaph vs Epithet: Difference and Comparison”

  1. It’s fascinating to learn about the origins and nuanced differences between the terms Epitaph and Epithet. A thought-provoking article.

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    • The descriptive comparisons make it much easier to distinguish between these words. A well-composed piece indeed.

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  5. Interesting information, it is essential to know the difference between words that are easily confused, like Epitaph and Epithet. I appreciate the clear explanations.

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