• An inscription on a building, statue, or coin.
  • A short quotation or saying at the beginning of a book or chapter, intended to suggest its theme.

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Example Sentences

“The epigraph of my first book is a clever quote from Dorothy Parker.”

“I didn’t recognize the man in the statue, but the epigraph said he was the city’s first mayor.”

“The brief epigraph at the beginning of the book of poetry described the author’s love of the wilderness.”

Word Origin

Greek, late 16th century

Why this word?

“Epigraph” is based on the Greek “ἐπιγραφή” (“epigraphḗ”), meaning “inscription.” Though the original epigraphs were inscribed upon solid physical works, such as statues, buildings, and coins, the modern usage of “epigraph” mostly refers to short quotes at the beginning of books or chapters, intended to suggest relevant themes. One of the most notable epigraphs in modern literature is the quote from Gertrude Stein that precedes Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises”: “You are all a lost generation.” That epigraph took on a life of its own as “the lost generation” was adopted to describe people struggling to find meaning after World War I, like those in Hemingway’s novel.

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