ephem·​er·​al | \ i-ˈfem-rəl How to pronounce ephemeral (audio) , -ˈfēm-; -ˈfe-mə-, -ˈfē- How to pronounce ephemeral (audio) \

Definition of ephemeral

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : lasting a very short time ephemeral pleasures
2 : lasting one day only an ephemeral fever



Definition of ephemeral (Entry 2 of 2)

: something that lasts for a very short time : something ephemeral specifically : a plant that grows, flowers, and dies in a few days

Other Words from ephemeral


ephemerally \ i-​ˈfem-​rə-​lē How to pronounce ephemeral (audio) , -​ˈfēm-​ ; -​ˈfe-​mə-​ , -​ˈfē-​ \ adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for ephemeral


transient, transitory, ephemeral, momentary, fugitive, fleeting, evanescent mean lasting or staying only a short time. transient applies to what is actually short in its duration or stay. a hotel catering primarily to transient guests transitory applies to what is by its nature or essence bound to change, pass, or come to an end. fame in the movies is transitory ephemeral implies striking brevity of life or duration. many slang words are ephemeral momentary suggests coming and going quickly and therefore being merely a brief interruption of a more enduring state. my feelings of guilt were only momentary fugitive and fleeting imply passing so quickly as to make apprehending difficult. let a fugitive smile flit across his face fleeting moments of joy evanescent suggests a quick vanishing and an airy or fragile quality. the story has an evanescent touch of whimsy that is lost in translation

The Mayfly Helps to Illustrate Ephemeral

The mayfly (order Ephemeroptera) typically hatches, matures, mates, and dies within the span of a few short hours (though the longest-lived may survive a record two days); poets sometimes use this insect to symbolize life's ephemeral nature. When ephemeral (from the Greek word ephēmeros, meaning "lasting a day") first appeared in print in English in the late 16th century, it was a scientific term applied to short-term fevers, and later, to organisms (such as insects and flowers) with very short life spans. Soon after that, it acquired an extended sense referring to anything fleeting and short-lived, as in "ephemeral pleasures."

Examples of ephemeral in a Sentence

Adjective … several rather inflated pages of material about an ephemeral love affair Fitzgerald allegedly had with an English woman named Bijou … — Joyce Carol Oates, Times Literary Supplement, 5 Jan. 1996 As a consequence North Africa was easily reconquered by the Byzantine emperor in the 530s, and the Vandals' influence on North African development was ephemeral and negligible. — Norman F. Cantor, The Civilization of the Middle Ages, 1993 This accounts for the peculiar sense most observers have that the ephemeral, sensationalist, polymorphous, magpie popular culture of the United States is at bottom remarkably conservative … — Louis Menand, Harper's, March 1993 the autumnal blaze of colors is always to be treasured, all the more so because it is so ephemeral
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The underlying motif is that material items are ephemeral, and art can’t be commodified. Will Dukes, Rolling Stone, 6 May 2022 In this idiosyncratic home goods store, some of the most attractive merchandise is ephemeral. Washington Post, 3 Mar. 2022 This tender waltz beautifully addresses the ephemeral nature of time and love and the permanence of art. Melinda Newman, Billboard, 25 Mar. 2022 For the past few years, a Finnish artist has been walking on a frozen lake near his hometown to create beautiful ephemeral art that disappears as the weather changes. Cailey Rizzo, Travel + Leisure, 20 Dec. 2021 Adaptability might mean contextualizing old monuments with additional signage or simply creating monuments that are more ephemeral in nature. Los Angeles Times, 22 Oct. 2021 Marking its return to the mountaintop city with a 3,353-square-foot boutique, the storied maison's ephemeral location is fully stocked with everything shoppers need to hit the slopes in style and more. Shelby Ying Hyde, Harper's BAZAAR, 17 Mar. 2022 As social media has grown to account for a larger share of internet content, that content has become more ephemeral, vulnerable to the disappearance of the platform on which it was shared or deletion by the user who created it. Drew Austin, Wired, 16 Mar. 2022 To live online like this is to develop a keen sense of the ephemeral and, correspondingly, the absurd. New York Times, 14 Mar. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The plant grows in clumps and is a spring ephemeral—producing leaves and flowers for about a month, then going dormant for the rest of the year. Arkansas Online, 28 Mar. 2022 There isn’t a growing season for native plants, although ephemerals bloom and die in a few days and others flower even when there’s snow on the ground. Hattie Bernstein, BostonGlobe.com, 5 July 2018 Early-blooming wildflowers called spring ephemerals – such as spring beauty, yellow trout lily, marsh marigold, and more – pop up in fields and woods across Northeast Ohio during early spring. cleveland.com, 8 May 2017 Spring ephemerals bloom before tree leaves block the sunlight from reaching the forest floor. cleveland.com, 8 May 2017 Like all spring ephemerals, the clock is always ticking for the wood anemone. Dave Taft, New York Times, 26 Apr. 2017 The timing of this fleeting wildflower, as with other spring ephemerals, is critical to the balance of the ecosystem. National Geographic, 24 Apr. 2016 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ephemeral.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of ephemeral


1576, in the meaning defined at sense 2


1807, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for ephemeral

Adjective and Noun

Greek ephēmeros lasting a day, daily, from epi- + hēmera day

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Time Traveler for ephemeral

Time Traveler

The first known use of ephemeral was in 1576

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Last Updated

11 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Ephemeral.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ephemeral. Accessed 27 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for ephemeral


ephem·​er·​al | \ i-ˈfem(-ə)-rəl How to pronounce ephemeral (audio) , -ˈfēm- How to pronounce ephemeral (audio) \

Medical Definition of ephemeral

: lasting a very short time

More from Merriam-Webster on ephemeral

Nglish: Translation of ephemeral for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ephemeral for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about ephemeral


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