Definition of epic in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈepik/


1A long poem, typically one derived from ancient oral tradition, narrating the deeds and adventures of heroic or legendary figures or the history of a nation.
Example sentences
  • Happily did he write epics according to ancient rule; no one was impressed.
  • A welter of poems, plays, epics and narrative poetry came into existence all at once, altering the landscape of literary activity in Bengal forever.
  • These soundbites will then be taken even further out of context by rival spinners and talking heads until they are told an retold, like the great epics of oral tradition, or a game of Telephone!
heroic poem;
story, saga, legend, romance, chronicle, myth, fable, tale
1.1The genre of epic poems: the romances display gentler emotions not found in Greek epic
More example sentences
  • He engages with an unprecedented range of Greek and Roman writing; every genre, not just epic, leaves its mark in the poem's idiom.
  • In this ambience the Pope, versed in classical epic, devised the programme for Michelangelo's Last Judgement, in which a warrior Christ thunderbolts the stunted damned.
  • Since he writes neither drama nor epic, he said, his poetry can only be lyrical.
1.2A long film, book, or other work portraying heroic deeds and adventures or covering an extended period of time: a Hollywood biblical epic
More example sentences
  • His script is unfocused, his direction uneasy; this film even lacks the visual splendor normally associated with epics and costume dramas.
  • The tragedy of this conception, and the intelligence with which it is executed on screen, makes it unique among film epics.
  • Oddly melancholy for a fantasy epic, the film overflows with sorrow for love lost, love unrequited, and the agony of lovers separated by the void of death.
long film
informal blockbuster


1Relating to or characteristic of an epic or epics: England’s national epic poem Beowulf
More example sentences
  • Christopher Marlowe's epic poem Hero and Leander, which is based on an ancient Greek myth, says more about the customs of contemporary England than of the ancient Greeks.
  • The heroes of most epic poems, in particular, can be seen as symbolic and fictitious figures invented and contrived by poets to convey religious and political ideals.
  • To kill one, whether or not with a crossbow, as in Coleridge's epic poem, was considered the ultimate omen of bad luck.
heroic, long, grand, monumental, Homeric, Miltonian
1.1Heroic or grand in scale or character: his epic journey around the world a tragedy of epic proportions
More example sentences
  • Both species can engage in river journeys of epic scale.
  • I'm trying to tell you about something of grand, epic proportions.
  • My problem with this book is that while epic in scope it isn't in storytelling.
ambitious, heroic, grand, great, Herculean;
very long, monumental;
1.2 informal Particularly impressive or remarkable: the gig last night was epic these CEOs are paid salaries and bonuses in the millions despite their epic failures
More example sentences
  • Am I just setting myself up for an epic failure?
  • Connoisseurs of box office bombs will no doubt be aware of its epic failure at the box office ($500,000 gross versus a $40 million budget).
  • If they want to call this "eco friendly", all I can say is "epic fail".



Example sentences
  • The climax, the Battle of Little Big Horn, could have been an exciting, even epical, scene, but it was poorly staged.
  • The man's imagination may not be redemptive, but it can at least be epical.
  • Some have theorized that comic books serve the modern function of the epical myth.


Pronunciation: /-(ə)lē/
Example sentences
  • In the first play of the Cuchulain cycle - On Baile's Strand - Yeats applies himself epically to the great characters and sagas of Irish mythology.
  • I've noticed that whenever I read the bio of some successful novelist, they inevitably seem to have this epically dysfunctional childhood.
  • Yet Chekhov's instinct was not misplaced: he had to extend himself physically, in an epically pedestrian manner, in order to win clarity for himself as a writer.


Late 16th century (as an adjective): via Latin from Greek epikos, from epos 'word, song', related to eipein 'say'.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: ep·ic

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.