from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The epithet ([ epiːtetɔn ]; ancient Greek ἐπίθετον epithet "The added, which later Imported" neuter the adjective ἐπίθετος epíthetos "added readjusted allocated"; Pl. Epithets ) is a linguistic additive in the form of an attribute , usually an adjective or an apposition , which can also appear as an epithet of rulers or deities ( epiclesis ). Its origin is likely to be in epic literature and rhetoric .

Rhetoric and stylistics

The technical term epithet is used in rhetoric or stylistics to denote the addition of an attribute that is not absolutely necessary in the context of a sentence , such as in the expression "the green meadow". The semantic content of an attachment depends not insignificantly on the respective context. For example, “the green meadow” can be contrasted with a “dry, yellow meadow”, whereby the epithet “green” becomes a characterization relating to the matter . Gerhart Hauptmann , in his play Before Sunrise (1889), has Hoffmann say towards the end of the third act: "So I tell you: that I consider your appearance here - to put it mildly - to be fabulous bold," to which Loth replies: "Perhaps you will explain to me what entitles you to me with such epithets ... "

If, on the other hand, a word meaning remains unchanged in its scope due to the attribution, the epithet can be understood as a “semantically redundant epithet with a purely decorative function” and to that extent as a pure “repetition figure” through which “the meaning of the word [...] is not expanded, but only accentuated becomes". The expression “blind despotism ” can serve as an example , in which blindness is portrayed as an inherent quality of despotism . This type, which is important in literature and rhetoric, is also referred to as the epithet ornans (pl. Epitheta ornantia , from Latin ornare , to decorate), thus as an unnecessary, only decorative addition to the noun. A flowering meadow as opposed to a green meadow may serve as an example . In particular, this term of the decorative epithet was used by the classical philologists to denote the conventional attributes of gods and hero names, but also of ordinary objects, which have appeared in numerous cases since Homer in the epic or epic language, such as: "the cow-eyed Hera", "The rose-fingered Eos", "the cunning Odysseus", "the wool-carrying sheep". These word combinations are not least due to the requirements of the epic hexameter and serve to fill a verse with full sound.

At a middle point between the two variants there are fixed epithets that serve to characterize, individualize or evaluate a person or a thing, such as a broad apposition in "Ivan the Terrible" or "Land of a Thousand Lakes". Those epic epithets that "denote an unchangeable property especially of people regardless of the respective situation" - such as "pius Aeneas" ( Virgil , Aeneid 1,305) - are also called epithet constans ('fixed epithet'), e.g. B. Such epithets Constantia are by Eric A. Havelock and another as a typical feature of mnemonics of präliteralen highlighted cultures.

The established surnames, especially those of ancient rulers, are also known as epithets. Examples include “ the great ” ( megas or magnus ) for example “the benefactor” ( euergetes ), “the city smasher” ( poliorketes ), “the invincible” ( invictus ) or “ the pious ” ( pius ).


In the nomenclature of biology , the scientific name of a type of living being is given in the two-part ( binary ) form introduced by Carl von Linné .


In botany , the second part of the name is generally referred to as the "epithet" (see International Code of Nomenclature for Algae, Fungi and Plants ). The scientific name is made up of a name for the genus and a species-specific epithet ( epithet specificum ). For example, in the common beech ( Fagus sylvatica ) the part of the name Fagus denotes the genus, while sylvatica is the epithet of the species. The additions to names in intraspecific grades such as variety, variety, group and Grex are also referred to as epithets.


In zoology but the term "epithet" was a term for a nomenclatural term neither the relevant phrase names of the English nomenclature code ( ICZN code included), nor is he in the German-language equivalent of the term to be found; instead, the expression "species name" appears here.

But this word species name is - unlike its counterpart in the English ICZN code - ambiguous, a homonym , because it stands for the term of the entire name of the animal species , consisting of the two parts of the name for genus and species (English species name or name of a species ) - for example Homo sapiens - as well as for the term of the specifying second part of such a name (English specific name ) - in this example sapiens . Therefore, for the latter term the expressions specificum Epithetum or epithet specificum sometimes still informally in the German zoological literature used. In the meantime, the term “species addition” is used to avoid confusion without using Greek or Latin words.

References: Rhetoric and Stylistics

  • Heinrich Lausberg : Handbook of literary rhetoric. A foundation of literary studies. Hueber, Munich 1960 (³1990), Vol. 1, §§ 676–685.
  • Josef Martin : Ancient rhetoric. Technique and method (HdAW II.3). CH Beck, Munich 1974, pp. 264, 307f.
  • Paolo Vivante: The Epithets in Homer. A Study in Poetic Values. Harvard UP, New Haven and London 1982.
  • Gert Ueding and Bernd Steinbrink : Outline of the rhetoric. History · Technology · Method . Metzler, Stuttgart ² 1986, p. 270.
  • Lisa Gondos: epithet . In: Gert Ueding (Hrsg.): Historical dictionary of rhetoric . WBG, Darmstadt 1992-2012, Vol. 2 (1994), Col. 1314-1316.


  1. Urs Meyer: Stylistic text features . In: Thomas Anz (Hrsg.): Handbuch Literaturwissenschaft. Vol. 1: Objects and basic concepts. Metzler, Stuttgart and Weimar 2007, p. 95.
  2. Manfred Landfester : Introduction to the stylistics of the Greek and Latin literary languages . WBG, Darmstadt 1997, p. 111.
  3. For a brief introduction: Walter Ong : Orality and Literacy. The technologization of the word. Westdeutscher Verlag, Opladen 1987, ISBN 3-531-11768-8 , pp. 24-30.
  4. Gerhard Becker: Compendium of the Zoological Nomenclature. Terms and symbols explained by official German texts. In: Senckenbergiana Lethaea. Vol. 81, No. 1, 2001, ISSN  0037-2110 , pp. 3–16, here p. 10 (“epithetum specificum”), p. 12 (“epitheton specificum”).

Web links

Wiktionary: Epithet  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations