ev·​a·​nes·​cent ˌe-və-ˈne-sᵊnt How to pronounce evanescent (audio)
: tending to vanish like vapor

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Breaking Down Evanescent

The fragile, airy quality of evanescent things reflects the etymology of the word evanescent itself. It’s from a form of the Latin verb evanescere, which means "to evaporate" or "to vanish.” (Evanescere is also the ultimate source of vanish.) Given the similarity in spelling between the two words, you might expect evaporate to be from this family as well, but its source is another steamy Latin root, evaporare.

Choose the Right Synonym for evanescent

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

Examples of evanescent in a Sentence

beauty that is as evanescent as a rainbow
Recent Examples on the Web Sketches and blackouts are often evanescent, like an idea sketched on a cocktail napkin; some last only a few seconds yet might have been fiendishly complicated to prepare and execute. Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times, 20 July 2023 Or something perhaps deeper and more difficult but not quite so evanescent? Attendance declines have made this question more urgent. Charles McNulty, Los Angeles Times, 1 July 2023 More often, though, the new songs are evanescent. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, 3 Nov. 2022 Consumatory scholarship has much more individualized and evanescent outcomes. Razib Khan, Discover Magazine, 28 June 2012 On the plus side are our memories, which elevate the evanescent pleasure of the meal to the longer-term reward of enjoyment. Arthur C. Brooks, The Atlantic, 24 Nov. 2022 But from his vantage on the evanescent bridge to maturity, So is puzzling out some big questions, ones that might be exigent from different vantages at any age. Deborah Eisenberg, The New York Review of Books, 19 Aug. 2021 This is to try to capture and memorialize this volatile and evanescent mode of expression, with its references both obscure and shared by millions. Patrick Iber, The New Republic, 5 Aug. 2021 Still another is for people and institutions to realize that cancellation mobs are often powerless and evanescent (and unmerited), a fearsome tide from far off that recedes to nothing closer to shore, and simply wait them out before acting rashly. Jack Butler, National Review, 26 Aug. 2021 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'evanescent.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Latin evanescent-, evanescens, present participle of evanescere

First Known Use

1717, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of evanescent was in 1717


Dictionary Entries Near evanescent

Cite this Entry

“Evanescent.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/evanescent. Accessed 3 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition


ev·​a·​nes·​cent ˌev-ə-ˈnes-ᵊnt How to pronounce evanescent (audio)
: tending to vanish like vapor : not lasting
evanescent pleasures

Medical Definition


ev·​a·​nes·​cent ˌev-ə-ˈnes-ᵊnt How to pronounce evanescent (audio)
: tending to disappear quickly : of relatively short duration
an evanescent rash

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