ephemeral

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

Essential Meaning of ephemeral

: lasting a very short time His fame turned out to be ephemeral. [=short-lived]

Full 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 ephemeral (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 Moments like this are ephemeral, preserved only in the minds of lucky attendees, few of whom have ever spoken about the concert. David A. Graham, The Atlantic, 9 Oct. 2021 Instead, eating doughnuts is a reminder that happiness is ephemeral. John Baldoni, Forbes, 8 Oct. 2021 Heartfelt yet ephemeral tributes are also abundant, including bell-ringings, vigils and websites. BostonGlobe.com, 31 July 2021 TikTok trends are ephemeral, vacating the mind as soon as newer, funnier content arrives. Scottie Andrew, CNN, 17 Aug. 2021 Burke’s influence in the Vatican was ephemeral, though. Washington Post, 16 Aug. 2021 Now, a study has found that ephemeral streams across the continental United States have become less reliable over the past 40 years, likely as a result of climate change. Erik Stokstad, Science | AAAS, 12 Aug. 2021 Paper journals are forever; TikTok is oh-so ephemeral. Mark Nevins, Forbes, 3 June 2021 This image is less ephemeral; its sand is affixed with glue onto particle board. Roger Catlin, Smithsonian Magazine, 18 June 2020 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, 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

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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Time Traveler for ephemeral

Time Traveler

The first known use of ephemeral was in 1576

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Dictionary Entries Near ephemeral

ephemera

ephemeral

ephemerality

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Last Updated

14 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Ephemeral.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ephemeral. Accessed 24 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for ephemeral

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

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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