Epigraph

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An epigraph (pronounced with the stress on the first syllable, 'EPP-y-graf', IPA: /ˈep ɪ grɑːf/) is an inscription, originally on a building, statue or other work, giving its name or other short detail. It came further to mean the words on the title-page of a book indicating such details as the place of publication, before being developed to its most common use in literary studies today, that of 'a small quotation at the beginning of a book, chapter or other unit of a text to indicate its theme, feeling or other characteristic'. In archaeology and related subjects, it most commonly used for inscriptions on physical monuments and other cultural artefacts.

  • The study of epigraphs in any sense, but most commonly in the sense of inscriptions on buildings and other physical objects, is epigraphy, : a recognized sub-discipline of archaeology and history. In its pronunciation, the stress is moved to the second syllable: 'e-PIG-gref-y', IPA: /e ˈpɪ grəfɪ/; and the adjective epigraphic is stressed on the third syllable, 'ep-y-GRAFF-ic', /ep ɪ ˈgræf ɪk/, in both of thesde with consequent changes in the sound of the third vowel .
Etymological note: epigraph is a transliteration of the Greek έπιγράφειν, formed from έπι, 'on' and γράφειν, 'to write'. It is thus an exact equivalent of the Latin roots of inscription: in, 'on' and scribĕre, 'to write'.