From Latin epithĕton, which comes from a Greek term that means “aggregate”, a epithet it’s a adjective or participle what do you expect characterize a name. Its main purpose, therefore, is not to specify or determine the name in question.
The epithet seeks to highlight intrinsic characteristics of the noun. For example: “The cold ice hurt the boy’s skin”, “Antonia saw how her most precious memories burned in the middle of the hot fire”.
Epithets are also used for accompany the name of historical figures, kings or divinities: “Alexander the Great is one of the most fascinating men in history”, “Sancho el bravo was a king of Castilla y León”.
It is also interesting to note that in Ancient Egypt the use of epithets was frequent. In this case, they were used in substitution of a specific noun and they came to show the qualities or main characteristics of that one. Thus, for example, it is known that in different contexts the term pharaoh was sometimes replaced by the epithet “victorious bull”.
There are epithets that allow mentioning objective qualities, while others are born from the subjectivity of the speaker. In the latter case, it is possible to refer to the appreciative epithets (“Juan is a brilliant tennis player”) and to pejorative epithets (“I have to find a place to put the horrible painting that my mother-in-law gave me”).
In addition to these two underlined classes, we have to show that there are many other types of epithets. Thus, for example, we find typifying epithets, which are those characterized by attributing to a name a quality that it possesses: “black elongated shadow.”
Second, there are the emphatic epithets which, as their name suggests, are those that exaggerate a specific quality. And then there are also the so-called metaphorical epithets that are identified by the fact that they carry a specific metaphor intrinsic.
Other types of existing epithets are known as appositives, which are used as if they were a definition of the noun and which are usually placed between commas.
The phrase epithets, which are in charge of highlighting the main idea of a text, and the visionaries, which are those that are shown as a surrealist image, are other modalities that exist of this rhetorical figure so fundamental within Literature and specifically within what would be the genre of poetry.
Antonio Machado, Federico García Lorca, Vicente Aleixandre or Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer are some of the authors who have used the epithets the most and best in their works.
It is important to bear in mind that, in the Spanish language, it is usual to put the epithet before the name (“The green grass invited to play”), although it is not an essential condition for the correct formulation of a sentence (“The green grass of the field astonished the public”).
There are occasions, however, in which the place of the epithet determines the meaning of the sentence: “That poor man lost his son”, “A poor man asked me for money”.
It should be noted that it is known as homeric epithet to the complement of proper names used in ancient Greek epics.