ephemeral

adjective
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

ephemeral

noun

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

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Other Words from ephemeral

Adjective

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

Choose the Right Synonym for ephemeral

Adjective

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

Adjective

The mayfly (order Ephemeroptera) typically hatches, matures, mates, and dies within the span of a few short hours (though the longest-lived species 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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

In October 2018, Hurricane Michael pushed saltwater into St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge on the Gulf Coast, where these salamanders breed in freshwater ephemeral pools. Starre Vartan, National Geographic, "Meet the shape-shifting baby amphibians that become cannibals," 26 June 2019 In the long, lazy days before Alaska’s most bonkers fishery brings bedlam and blood to the beaches of Kenai, one of the state’s least likely and most laid-back fisheries exists as an ephemeral prelude to the madness. Matt Tunseth, Anchorage Daily News, "Calm before the storm: Kenai halibut anglers kick back in advance of Alaska’s most frenetic fishery," 19 June 2019 But what about their tastes for the ephemeral—specifically, the personal scent? Roxanne Adamiyatt, Town & Country, "6 Royal-Worn Perfumes That Are Fit for Non-Princesses Too," 30 Mar. 2019 Art and its makers can be as ephemeral as ordinary matter and mortals. Willard Spiegelman, WSJ, "A Prophetic Paean to Progress," 1 Mar. 2019 The ephemeral glow of the northern and southern lights has entranced humans throughout the ages, sparking countless creative works, myths, and legends as well as scientific study of the mechanism behind the phenomenon. Robin George Andrews, National Geographic, "Steve the odd 'aurora' revealed to be two sky shows in one," 3 May 2019 The 100% write-offs are even more ephemeral than other tax cuts in the new law. WSJ, "WSJ Tax Guide 2019: Depreciation," 15 Feb. 2019 The films are minimal and not narrated, highlighting the ephemeral beauty of the draping process, as well as the open-ended nature intrinsic to those six yards of cloth. Meara Sharma, Vogue, "Why I Am Taking the Sari Back to the Street," 30 Apr. 2019 The book’s occasional character, far from rendering it ephemeral, gives it a prophetic immediacy. Edward Short, WSJ, "Eloquence in Defense of Order," 8 Mar. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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, "Cool down this summer in these magical gardens," 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, "Medina County Park District Wildflower Challenge ends June 1 (photos, video)," 8 May 2017 Spring ephemerals bloom before tree leaves block the sunlight from reaching the forest floor. cleveland.com, "Medina County Park District Wildflower Challenge ends June 1 (photos, video)," 8 May 2017 Like all spring ephemerals, the clock is always ticking for the wood anemone. Dave Taft, New York Times, "On Forest Floors, Wood Anemone Provides a Burst of Spring," 26 Apr. 2017 The timing of this fleeting wildflower, as with other spring ephemerals, is critical to the balance of the ecosystem. National Geographic, "These Animals Live in the Most Powerful City in the World," 24 Apr. 2016

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.

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First Known Use of ephemeral

Adjective

1576, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Noun

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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Last Updated

18 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for ephemeral

The first known use of ephemeral was in 1576

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More Definitions for ephemeral

ephemeral

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of ephemeral

: lasting a very short time

ephemeral

adjective
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

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