Ephemeral Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How to Use It

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According to one of France’s greatest playwrights of the 20th century Eugène Ionesco, “Only the ephemeral is of lasting value.” 

This is a beautiful quote with a deep meaning, but if you don’t understand the definition behind the word ephemeral (ephem·​er·​al | \ i-ˈfem-rəl), you may be a bit confused. 

In this post, we’ll teach you all there is to know about this complex term, including what it means, where it came from, and how it’s used. So if you’ve ever been curious about the word ephemeral — keep reading!

What Is the Definition of Ephemeral?

If you open up a dictionary, you’ll find that the adjective ephemeral refers to something that is fleeting or short-lived, such as a butterfly that lives for only a few days or the ephemeral joys of childhood.  

That said, when our word of the day is used as a noun, it can refer to anything that has a short lifespan, such as certain plants and insects. 

What Is the Origin of Ephemeral?

The word ephemeral comes from Greek ephēmeros, meaning “short-lived, lasting but a day.” Ephḗmeros is ultimately based on the preposition and adverb epí, meaning “upon, up to, during,” as well as the noun hēméra, meaning “day.”

In the English language, “ephemeral” was originally a medical term that specifically described fevers that spanned just a day, but eventually evolved to refer to organisms and other things with short life spans, such as insects and flowers. 

The origin word ephḗmeros is also the source of the English plural noun ephemera (singular ephemeron), which refers to items that are designed to be useful for only a short time, like pamphlets, notices, and tickets.

What Are the Synonyms and Antonyms?

If you ask us, one of the very best ways to become better acquainted with a new word is to open up a thesaurus and discover its synonyms and antonyms. 

Can’t remember what a synonym or an antonym is?  

In short, synonyms are terms or expressions that have the same or nearly the same meaning as another term or expression. An antonym, on the other hand, is a term of the opposite meaning. 

With this in mind, here are some synonyms of ephemeral:

  • Transient
  • Short
  • Brief
  • Concise
  • Temporary
  • Fleeting
  • Passing
  • Here today and gone tomorrow
  • Short-lived
  • Flitting
  • Momentary
  • Fugitive
  • Temporal
  • Evanescent
  • Succinct 
  • Fugacious

Antonyms of ephemeral include:

  • Lasting
  • Enduring
  • Persisting 
  • Eternal
  • Durable
  • Long-lasting
  • Immortal
  • Abiding
  • Perennial
  • Continual
  • Steadfast

How Can You Use Ephemeral in a Sentence?

Our word of the day is synonymous with the term “fleeting,” but do you know how to use it properly in a sentence? Not to worry; we compiled a short list of example sentences for you to study below:

“Despite lasting for a short period, the ephemeral flower was beautiful.”

“Truth be told, the material world is as ephemeral as human life.”

“Did you know that in biology, the word ephemeral refers to a short-lived organism, such as the mayfly?”

“Nick’s success as a drummer was ephemeral, but he still likes to rock out with his buddies.”

“Unfortunately, hopes of unity in the tired country have proved ephemeral.”

“Thanks to my ephemeral memory, I tend to forget things all the time!”

“The morning thunderstorm was ephemeral, starting suddenly and gone within moments.”

“Although they are small, ephemeral things are my favorite kind of things.”

“Unlike graffiti which can last a lifetime, sidewalk chalk art is ephemeral because it vanishes after a rainstorm.”

“The ephemeral marriage only lasted a couple of weeks before it fizzled out.”

“Have you ever listened to the album called Ephemeral Pleasures by Kasia Pietrzko Trio?”

“Precipitation is pretty ephemeral here in California — unlike New York where it rains all the time.”

“Bob believes that fame in the world of pop is largely ephemeral.” 

“My time with grandpa was ephemeral, but I am glad that I got to see him before he passed away.” 

“Suzie’s beauty created an ephemeral interest.”

“While waiting in the drive-thu, I sang at the top of my lungs for my very own ephemeral amusement.”

“The ephemeral nature of the storm wasn’t a major cause for concern.”

“Sorry, I can’t come into work today because I am dealing with an ephemeral fever.”

“California is facing some major fires that are anything but ephemeral.”

What Are Translations of Ephemeral? 

Now that you have a pretty good understanding of the term ephemeral, you might be interested in learning how to say it in a different language. Here are some common translations of ephemeral from around the world:

  • Albanian — kalimtar
  • Basque — iragankorrak
  • Belarusian — эфемерны
  • Bosnian — prolazan
  • Bulgarian — ефимерен
  • Catalan — efímer
  • Corsican — efemera
  • Croatian — prolazan
  • Czech — efemérní
  • Danish — flygtig
  • Dutch — kortstondig
  • Estonian — üürike
  • Finnish — lyhytaikainen
  • French — éphémère
  • Frisian — efemerike
  • Galician — efémero
  • German — Vergänglich
  • Greek — εφήμερος
  • Hungarian — tiszavirág életű  
  • Icelandic — Tímabundið
  • Irish — ephemeral
  • Italian — effimero
  • Latvian — efemers
  • Lithuanian — efemeriškas
  • Luxembourgish — ephemeral
  • Macedonian — ефемерни
  • Maltese — effimeru
  • Norwegian — flyktig
  • Polish — efemeryczny
  • Portuguese — Efêmero
  • Romanian — efemer
  • Russian — эфемерный
  • Scots Gaelic — tuiteamach
  • Serbian — краткотрајан
  • Slovak — prchavý
  • Slovenian — kratkotrajne
  • Spanish — efímero
  • Swedish — kortlivad
  • Ukrainian — ефемерний
  • Welsh — byrhoedlog
  • Yiddish — עפעמעראַל


So, what’s the meaning behind our word of the day, you ask?

When you describe something as ephemeral, you mean that it last only for a short fleeting time.  

With this definition and Ionesco’s quote from earlier in mind, one might conclude that the famous playwright believes scarcity increases values, and those temporal wonders we experience — such as a sweet first kiss before the end of a perfect date or the smell of mom’s famous homemade cookies fresh out of the oven — become the memories we cherish for a lifetime. 

In other words, “don’t forget to wake up and smell the roses!”


Only the ephemeral is of lasting value. Eugene Ionesco | Quote Master.org

EPHEMERAL English Definition and Meaning | Lexico.com

Word of the Day – ephemeral | Dictionary.com