Word: epitome

Pronunciation: ə-PI-tə-mee

Part of Speech: noun


  1. a person or thing that is a perfect example of a particular quality or type
  2. a summary of a written work; an abstract

Source: Oxford Dictionaries

Here’s another word that’s quite common but that’s tripped me up in the past. Funnily enough, I had both heard it spoken often and read it a few times before, yet I didn’t realize at first that it was the same word because I expected it to have a different pronunciation based on its spelling. It didn’t help that I’d heard other people incorrectly pronounce it “E-pi-tohm”, but when you think about, that just seems to make this word an “epitome” of the challenges of learning English!

An “epitome” of a given quality or type is a perfect example of it. In literature, “epitome” refers to an abstract or summary of a written work. The word arose in the early 16th century and traces back to the Greek noun epitomḗ ,meaning “abridgment”. This noun stems from the verb epitémnō “to abridge”, which in turn consists of the prefix epi “upon” and the verb témnō “to cut”.

Much like the word “hyperbole“, I find “epitome” interesting for the apparent discrepancy between its spelling and pronunciation, though this should hardly be surprising given that both these words come from Greek. Similar to its meaning as an abstract of a written work, this word also has an archaic sub-definition: “a thing representing something else in miniature”. If you ever find yourself needing to perfectly exemplify an idea in your stories, an “epitome” would be an excellent device to deploy!

What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?

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