Difference Between Epitaph and Epithet

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.

Epitaph v/s Epithet

The main difference between Epitaph and Epithet is that epitaph is a word that is generally inscribed on a tombstone, while epithet is generally used as a nickname. An epitaph is used for honoring or addressing a dead person, on the other hand, Epithet is a byname given to a person and it can also be an abusive derogatory term.

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An epitaph is referred to a funeral oration or a brief text that is used to honor 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 which refers to a byname or an accompanying term that is 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 Between Epitaph and Epithet

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 honor a dead person. These words are referred to a text that is written on the stone or plaque and sometimes is used in a figurative sense. Sometimes, some people before death, 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.

Oftentimes, epitaphs are referred to concise documentation of the family and the profession of the deceased 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.

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 different meanings and synonyms when they are 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.

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 it to be considered as pronouns. Epithets are also argued to be a phenomenon that has a syntax-semantics interface as it has components of both and pragmatic dimensions. An epithet is often 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 honor a deceased person while epithets are attached after the person’s name or in place of that name.
  4. Epitaphs are found in 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.

Conclusion

In conclusion, both the words epitaph and epithets use a common Greek word ‘epi’ which means ‘upon’. An epitaph is a short brief text that is used to honor and commemorate a deceased person and is placed on their tombstone while an epithet is referred to an alternate name for a person or an object deity.

However, the meaning of abuse or insult is most often seen today, especially the words that are used to imply an entire category: for example, a racist or sexist. But not all epithets are used as a negative term, some are used as a glorified nickname that is attached to a person’s name as an adjective, but not all epithets are an adjective.

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
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