(1) A descriptive word or phrase occurring with or in place of the name of a person or thing. (2) An insulting or demeaning word or phrase.
King Richard I was known by the epithet "Lionhearted."
Sometimes an epithet follows a given name, as in Erik the Red and Billy the Kid. Other times, the epithet precedes the personal name, as in Mahatma ("Great-souled") Gandhi. Still other times, the epithet is used in place of the actual name, as in the case of El Greco ("the Greek") and El Cid ("the Lord"). In its other commonly used sense, epithet refers to a name intended to insult or mock someone. When enemies are said to be "hurling epithets" at each other, it means they are exchanging angry insults.