I found the word, ‘the first-person epiphany’ in the article written by Jeffery Klugar, under the title “Be careful what you wish for” that appeared in Time magazine pretty long ago (February 11, 2010). I knew the title is the borrowing from the title of the first album by Gabby La la from Wikipedia,

The line including ‘the first-person epiphany’ reads:

“You never get over the moment you realize that you’re definitely going to die. You’re usually a small child when the insight hits, and you usually have a vague idea of what death is, but the first-person epiphany – the “Wait, that‘s going to happen to me? Experience – change everything. Your sense of time and its fleeting passage can never go back to what it was before you discovered that you are on the clock."

Though I understand ‘the first-person epiphany’ means ‘one’s own intuition or inspiration,’ I’m not sure, nor whether this is a colloquial expression that I can use like ‘My first person epiphany is - -’ or a rather pedantic expression better not to use in daily conversation. Can you tell me about the usage of this word?

1 Answer 1


An epiphany is an event where in a flash a person realizes the truth of a situation or when something that made no sense or that was thought to have no significance is suddenly understood all at once.

The Epiphany described in the New Testament was the visitation of the wise men to honor Jesus when he was a small baby. That was a moment when the outside word first began to understand Jesus significance and Jesus and Mary were confirmed in their own beliefs.

Another epiphany that Mary and Joseph experienced that caused them to believe that Jesus was quite unique and was called to do something special occurred when they visited the Temple as a small boy, and he participated in the disputations that learned men were having there, and stayed in Jerusalem at the temple even when his party was returning home.

Novelist James Joyce especially generalized from specific events reported in the Bible to other life-significant events that were interesting to a storyteller or novelist. See this article on epiphanies in Joyce and Wordsworth's work.

If you hear someone using this phrase in conversation they likely have literary or critical training. Qualifying it as a "first-person epiphany" is evidence of this particular writer's cleverness. This whole phrase is not common usage.

If you used it, you would likely have to explain that you mean a flash realization that a person has about his own situation or predicament.

Might be OK to use epiphany in the vicinity of a University or among friends who were writers, English students or divinity school atendees. Could get you heckled or worse at a sports bar.

  • @David Luebbert. Lots of thanks. Article on epiphanies in Joice and wordsworth’s work you suggested me to read was particularly enlightening. Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary provides only a single definition of epiphany as ‘a Christian festival, held on the 6 January, in the memory of the time when the Magi came to see baby Jesus at Bethlehem.’ It seems to be better to interprete epiphany here as spiritual inspiration or realization rather than ‘intuition’ that an English Japanese dictionary at hand gave me as the another meaning. May 11, 2011 at 9:04
  • "epiphany" can also mean something similar to "enlightenment" on a specific question/topic. May 11, 2011 at 9:12

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