ephemeral

adjective
ephem·er·al | \i-ˈfem-rəl, -ˈfēm-;-ˈfe-mə-, -ˈfē- \

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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from ephemeral

Adjective

ephemerally \i-ˈfem-rə-lē, -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
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Matzo balls can be as ephemeral as clouds or firm, with nice chew. New York Times, "Matzo Balls for Passover," 19 Mar. 2018 Where commercial markets call for anonymity and limited, ephemeral involvement, fans form deep attachments. Nancy Baym, WIRED, "Book Excerpt: How Music Fans Built the Internet," 10 July 2018 Still, fruit-forward perfumes remain popular summer after summer precisely because of their ephemeral, childlike appeal. New York Times, "This Summer, Smell Like Fruit Salad," 2 July 2018 One study found that use of ephemeral social media like Snapchat was correlated with greater happiness, while more lasting social-media use has been linked to higher rates of anxiety and depression. Jeanne Whalen, WSJ, "Is Screen Time Bad for Children’s Mental Health?," 24 June 2018 Instead, the film posits an inherent kinship between Trump and Kim — as members of that tiny elite that managed to rise above the ephemeral hordes, and achieve historic relevance. Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, "Trump’s North Korean Propaganda Reveals His Contempt for Democracy," 13 June 2018 But there's nothing on the sender's end that guarantees that will happen—so as always, send your ephemeral messages with care. Sean Gallagher, Ars Technica, "Signal’s “disappearing messages” live on in macOS notifications," 9 May 2018 An ephemeral sight to behold and a deeply sensorial experience, take the time to enjoy the fragrant air of the many blooms on display. Tom Marchant, Harper's BAZAAR, "103 Things to Do, See, Eat and Shop in London," 7 Dec. 2017 Its investments are ever-more ephemeral, progressing from commodities to movies to arbitrage. The Economist, "On stage, the saga of the Lehman brothers is a parable of America," 12 July 2018

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.

See More

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

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

Noun

see ephemeral entry 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about ephemeral

Listen to Our Podcast about ephemeral

Statistics for ephemeral

Last Updated

26 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for ephemeral

The first known use of ephemeral was in 1576

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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, -ˈfēm- \

Medical Definition of ephemeral 

: lasting a very short time

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on ephemeral

What made you want to look up ephemeral? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

to reject or criticize sharply

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words from Greek and Roman Mythology Quiz

  • the-triumph-of-venus-by-alessandro-magnasco
  • Boreal comes from the name of the ancient Greek god of which wind?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!