Today we will focus on the English prefix epi-, which means “over” or “upon.” Hopefully you will find this podcast to be the epitome of all information about epi-!
One of the primary meanings of the English prefix epi- is “upon.” An epidemic is a disease that comes “upon” people over a widespread area. When epidemics are deadly, epitaphs are in great demand, being words written “upon” tombstones speaking of who is buried there. An epithet, however, is meant for use during life, as it is a descriptor placed “upon” a person’s name, such as the “Great” in Alexander the Great or “Terrible” in Ivan the Terrible. An epilogue speaks “upon” a play as it ends, often asking for the audience’s approval …. or forgiveness! As a final example of epi- meaning “upon,” an eponym is the name of a person put “upon” a place, such as Virginia (from Elizabeth I of England, the Virgin Queen) or Rome, derived from the first king of Rome, Romulus.
Having spoken “upon” the first meaning of epi- sufficiently, let’s now go “over” another widespread meaning of epi-, that is, “over”! The epidermis, or visible layer of skin in humans, lies “over” the dermis and hypodermis, the two underlying skin layers. The epicenter of an earthquake is that point on the surface of the Earth directly “over” the very center or place of origin of an earthquake. Have you seen those quotes from literary works that often begin chapters in books? Those are epigraphs, or words written “over” the beginning of a book chapter, often to clue you into what the chapter is going to be about. Finally, an epigram, or short group of words written “over” a given subject, is defined as a short poem or sentence that expresses something such as a feeling or idea in a short, clever, and amusing way.
There are many more words that the prefix epi- lies “upon” and rules “over”—but enough already of this epi- epilogue!
- epidemic: a widespread disease that comes “upon” people
- epitaph: writing “upon” a tomb
- epithet: descriptor placed “upon” someone’s name
- epilogue: writing “upon” the conclusion of a written work
- eponym: someone’s name placed “upon” a place
- epidermis: top layer of skin placed “over” the two underlying layers
- epicenter: place directly “over” the origin of an earthquake
- epigraph: appropriate words written “over” the chapter in a book
- epigram: short number of words written “over” a particular topic