The Meaning of Epitome: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of epitome? This guide will provide you with all of the knowledge you need on the word epitome, including its definition, etymology, synonyms, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word epitome mean?

According to Merriam-Webster Unabridged English Language Dictionary, Cambridge English Dictionary, and other dictionary apps, the word epitome, pronounced “ɪˈpɪt.ə.mi”, is a noun that has two possible meanings. First, the word epitome can mean embodiment; some ideal or example, or a person or thing that embodies some quality or thing. For example, someone who turns in all of their work on time, gets 100%s on everything, and knows the answer to any questions asked in class might be the epitome of a perfect student; she is a perfect example of a good student.

The word epitome can also mean some abridgement or summary of a written work, or a brief presentation of something. For example, the abstract at the beginning of a thesis paper or some other academic article would be considered an epitome.

This word is most commonly used in the first meaning. This is a very common word that is frequently used in place of words like embodiment or ideal. The word epitome can be used in positive and negative commontations, however. In contrast to our first example, a student who never shows up to class, fails every assignment, and is rude to teachers might be considered the epitome of a bad student. This is a very versatile term that can be used in a variety of different circumstances.

The word epitome is also present in many other languages to describe some embodiment or encapsulation of something. This list of translations is provided by Word Sense.

  • Czech: ztělesnění‎
  • Afrikaans: toonbeeld‎
  • Turkish: özet‎
  • Finnish: ruumiillistuma‎
  • Arabic: مَثَال‎ (masc.)
  • Danish: indbegrebet‎
  • German: Verkörperlichung‎ (fem.)
  • Persian: خلاصه‎
  • Belarusian: ўвасабленне‎ (ŭvasabljénnje)
  • Hebrew: תמצית‎ (tamtsot)
  • Icelandic: ímynd‎
  • French: résumé‎, épitomé‎ (masc.)
  • Galician: epítome‎
  • Russian: воплоще́ние‎, олицетворе́ние‎ (neut.)
  • Roman: epitom‎ (masc.), utjelovljenje‎ (neut.), personifikacija‎ (fem.), ovaploćenje‎ (neut.)
  • Norwegian: innbegrepet‎
  • Portuguese: epítome‎
  • Albanian: mishërim‎
  • Swedish: sammandrag‎, personifiering‎ (common), inbegrepp‎ (neut.), inkarnation‎ (common)
  • Cyrillic: епитом‎ (masc.), утјеловљење‎ (neut.), персонификација‎ , оваплоћење‎ (neut.)
  • Hungarian: összegzés‎
  • Bulgarian: въплъщение‎
  • Japanese: 縮図‎ (しゅくず, shukuzu)
  • Dutch: verwezenlijking‎ (fem.), belichaming‎ (fem.), personificatie‎ (fem.)
  • Chinese – Mandarin: 縮影‎, 缩影‎ (suōyǐng)
  • Spanish: epítome‎
  • Yiddish: יפּיטאַמי‎ (ifitomi)
  • Greek: επιτομή‎
  • Italian: epitome‎
  • Estonian: epitoom

What are synonyms and antonyms for the word epitome?

There are many different words that have the same meaning as the word epitome; these are called synonyms. It is very useful to know synonyms for different words when you are speaking or writing, not only to expand your vocabulary, but to avoid repeating yourself. Repetition can clue readers and listeners into a small vocabulary or make your sentences feel stilted and naive. This list of synonyms for the word epitome is provided by Thesaurus.

  • quintessence
  • abstract
  • essence
  • compendium
  • recapitulation
  • archetype
  • brief
  • last word
  • exemplar
  • apotheosis
  • syllabus
  • conspectus
  • digest
  • embodiment
  • illustration
  • summary
  • summation
  • personification
  • synopsis
  • representation
  • typification
  • contraction
  • exemplification
  • abridgment
  • précis
  • ultimate
  • type
  • résumé
  • condensation 

There are also many words that mean the opposite of the word epitome, which are called antonyms. It is useful to know antonyms so that you do not simply negate the word you are using, but use the opposite of it. This shows that you have a large, impressive vocabulary and can add interest to speeches, conversations, and writing. This list of antonyms for the word epitome is also provided by Thesaurus

  • breadth
  • expanse
  • multiplication
  • enlargement
  • amplification
  • dilation
  • opening out
  • diffusion
  • development
  • swelling
  • extension
  • maturation
  • augmentation
  • magnification
  • growth
  • spread
  • expansion
  • increase
  • inflation
  • unfurling
  • stretch
  • space
  • distance
  • unfolding
  • evolution
  • distension

How can the word epitome be used in a sentence?

The word epitome can be used in a variety of different sentences to either mean some embodiment or exemplification or something, or it can be used to mean some abridgement or summary of a piece of written work. In this example, the word epitome will be used to mean the embodiment of exemplification of a certain characteristic. Here, Miranda is upset because her boyfriend cheated on her. Her friend Amie comforts her.

Miranda: I just don’t understand. I know all of his friends are jerks, but I really didn’t think he was like that.

Amie: Miranda, I hate to break it to you, but he was the epitome of a total jerk. He was never nice to me or any of your other friends, he got mad in the blink of an eye, and ignored you all the time. You deserve better than him.

What is the origin of the word epitome?

According to Etymonline, the word epitome has been used since the 1520s to mean some abstract or brief statement about certain points of a piece of writing. This comes from the French épitomé which has been used since the 16th century. The French word épitomé comes from the LAtin epitome, meaning an abridgement. LAtin takes this word from the Greek epitome “ἐπιτομή”, which also means an abridgement, cutting, or surface incision. The greek word comes from epitome, meaning to cut short or abridge. This comes from the prefix epi, meaning into, and the root temnein, meaning to cut. The word epitome has meant a person or thing that exemplifies something since the year 1600. Related words to epitome include epitomize, epitomic, and epitomical.

Overall, the word epitome has two definitions. Firstly, this noun is used to mean something or someone that is the embodiment of some quality or thing. For example, a person might be the epitome of a good student. An epitome can also mean some summary or abridgement of something. The word epitome has Latin and Greek roots and is commonly used in speeches and writing. 

Sources:

  1. thesaurus.com/browse/epitome 
  2. https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/expansion
  3. https://www.etymonline.com/word/epitome
  4. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/epitome
  5. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/epitome
  6. https://www.wordsense.eu/epitome/