The noun epithet is a descriptive nickname, such as "Richard the Lionhearted," or "Tommy the Terrible." When it takes a turn for the worse, it can also be a word or phrase that offends.

Don’t let epithet’s bad reputation fool you — that’s only half the story. An epithet can be harmless, a nickname that catches on, like all hockey fans knowing that "Sid the Kid" is Sidney Crosby. On the flip side, an epithet can be an abusive word or phrase that should never be used, like a racial epithet that offends and angers everyone.

Definitions of epithet

n descriptive word or phrase

Type of:
characterisation, characterization, delineation, depiction, picture, word picture, word-painting
a graphic or vivid verbal description

n a defamatory or abusive word or phrase

smear word
an epithet that can be used to smear someone's reputation
Type of:
calumniation, calumny, defamation, hatchet job, obloquy, traducement
a false accusation of an offense or a malicious misrepresentation of someone's words or actions

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