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a poetic attribute, a type of trope. Epithets are usually adjectives (sladostnyi napev, “sweet melody”); in Russian literary criticism, however, the category is extended to include adverbs (goriacho liubit’, “to love hotly”), nouns (vesel’ia shum, “noise of mirth”) numerals (pervyi drug, “first [best] friend”), and verbs (zhelanie zabyt’sia, “desire to forget”). Unlike common attributes, which distinguish some object from many others (tikhii zvon, “faint pealing”), an epithet may single out one special quality of the object (gordyi kon’, “proud steed”) or function as a metaphor, investing the object with the properties of another object (zhivoi sled, “living trace”).

The epithet evolved in oral poetry in various ways: as a generalization of a standard attribute typifying an object (rusaia kosa, “light brown braid”; belaia bereza, “white birch”), as a means of fixing a historical relation (sedelyshko cherkasskoe, “Circassian saddle”; the “Arabian steed” of French medieval poetry), and as an idealization (laskovyi kniaz’ Vladimir, “gentle Prince Vladimir”). The development of a personal poetic diction expanded the system of stock epithets used in folk poetry. The attributes of natural phenomena were applied to persons (iasnoe solntse, “bright sun” for iasnyi vzgliad, “bright visage”), and syn-esthetic epithets were created by combining different categories of sensation (kholodnyi tsvet, “cold color”; iasnyi zvuk, “clear sound”). The desire to emphasize an impression led to repetition (ukrasno ukrashennaia zemlia Russkaia, “beauteously beautiful Russian land”) or the fusion of different roots (Homer’s “swift-footed Achilles”; shirokoshumnye dubrovy, “wide-rustling oak groves”).

Professional literature eventually abandoned the stock epithets of folk poetry, which in extreme cases stripped words of their fundamental semantics (Naostri moiu ostruiu sabliu!, “Sharpen my sharp saber!”), to develop personal, striking, and unique epithets (A. S. Pushkin’s dam obdumannyi nariad, “ladies’ calculated attire”). Epithets may thus reflect an author’s style, historical period, and literary school (sladkoglasnyi pevets, “sweet-voiced singer,” and khladnyi prakh, “cold ashes,” are typical of sentimentalism; zheltaia zaria, “yellow dawn,” and snezhnoe vino, “snowy wine,” figure as elements in A. Blok’s poetic system).


Veselovskii, A. N. Istoricheskaia poetika. Leningrad, 1940. Pages 73–93.
Zhirmunskii, V. M. “K voprosu ob epitete.” In his collection Teoriia lit-ry, poetika, stilistika: Izbr. trudy. Leningrad, 1977.
Tomashevskii, B. V. Stilistika i stikhoslozhenie. Leningrad, 1959. Pages 200–08.
Ozerov, L. “Oda epitetu.” Voprosy literatury, 1972, no. 4.


References in periodicals archive ?
Friends, if anyone gives you epithets, I suggest that you should inform your school principal or teachers or parents/guardians who take care of you.
In any case, Smith does not give the reader a proper chance to decide if an epithet is significant or merely conventional.
In order to clarify how characterizations work before turning to discuss their involvement with racial epithets more specifically, let us first briefly consider a paradigm example of a characterization from Romeo and Juliet: the example where Romeo characterizes Juliet as the sun with the metaphorical statement Juliet is the sun.
These characters are attributed with traits and epithets to aggrandize their distinct contributions to the epic.
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Whoever he really was, Dionisio variously styled himself or was given such titles as "messenger of the Holy Spirit," "King of the Gauls," "horseman of the Apocalypse," and other epithets with messianic overtones.
This discussion serves to illustrate how Popes and Politics highlights the kinds of historical insights and distinctions that make it particularly significant amid the swirl of epithets and counter-epithets relating to Catholics and the Third Reich.
The following chapters detail the way in which John describes Paul, both in "miniature portraits of Paul" via epithets and in detailed descriptions, both somatic and psychic (encomiastic).
His wife, Adreinne Regnier, a professor and coordinator of Jefferson Community College's philosophy department, said she would continue with her husband's lawsuit charging that the college took his job for using epithets in a class discussion on the power of language.
It is often necessary, the NLRB reasoned, for union organizers and officials to use sexual, racial, and other derogatory epithets in the course of their daily work.
Valuable insights are provided by Leitner's 'Tractatus' - style epithets, which refute the oft attempted comparison between Wittgenstein' philosophical writings and the building.
The sorority sisters complained that racial epithets had been yelled at them.