From a paper by Anthony Baker titled "“for the murder of his own female slave, a woman named Mira...” : Law, Slavery and Incoherence in Antebellum North Carolina":

Apart from its gripping melodrama and epitragic conclusion, the case of The State of North Carolina v. John Hoover would not appear to commend any appreciable attention from legal historians seeking to trace the potent interface of law and society, on first, quick reading.

What is the meaning of epitragic here? Since "epi" means "upon", could it mean "finally, tragic conclusion" ("tragic-in-the-final-end")?

I came across the word reading this topic on History SE.

Of course I did look for it in a dictionary, and found it not.

  • 1
    Have you checked a dictionary?
    – James K
    May 19 '19 at 6:27
  • 1
    @ James K , have you found it in a dictionary? I looked Merriam Webster, & did not find. Searched on it and didn't even find any (other) coherent English text containing it. Personally I think it is a made-up word, but can we be understanding when a learner can't figure out what it means?
    – Lorel C.
    May 19 '19 at 6:49
  • @LorelC. Well, this is sort of the point. Has the OP checked a dictionary? If the answer is yes, then all well and good. They won't find it. I know that because I have checked. But this kind of research needs to be done first. All words are made up words. The quoted text is quite coherent and there are four of five more examples.
    – James K
    May 19 '19 at 7:12
  • "Upon" is not the only meaning of the prefix "epi". I think that here, "epitragic" could mean either/both "more than tragic".or/and "nearly tragic".
    – Victor B.
    May 19 '19 at 7:13
  • 2
    @JamesK - of course I did, and found it not. May 19 '19 at 9:35

This word doesn't appear in dictionaries, which means it has very little currency. There is a few uses on the web, in which it seems to be being used synonymously with "melodramatic":

There had been a time when [women] were romantic ideals, to be sung about in epitragic ballads.

Or, as the rest of the world knows this horrendous, sensational, epitragic story... "Just another day in floriduh."

The violence [...] was not an hamartia of epi-tragic proportions but a necessary transgression that paved the way for the divine cycle of the first birth.

The word could have been coined independently several times, either from epi+tragic (beyond tragedy), or as a portmanteau of "epic tragedy"


I found for this word at least 4 forms: epitragic as you noted, as well as epi-tragic, epictragic, and epic-tragic (which is the most common form among the mentioned forms).

Anyway, this term is a literary term which means to combine or bind between two opposite terms "epic" and "tragic" (see here, also here for example).

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