Word: ephemeral

Pronunciation: ə-FE-m(ə)rəl

Part of Speech: adjective

Definition: lasting for a very short time

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


I love this word. I’m not even entirely sure why, but I do. It was one of those words that I had to look up as soon as I heard it, and which I had to start using as soon as I knew what it meant. I think it sounds very poetic, and when used well, it can really add to the flow of a story. After all, what’s the fun of calling something “short-lived” when you can use a more artistic-sounding word instead?

That which is “ephemeral” is fleeting, lasting only a short time. The word comes from the Greek adjective ephemeros, which literally means “for one day”, as it’s comprised of the roots epi “on” and hemera “day”. This is also the origin of the English noun “ephemeron” (best known by its plural form, “ephemera”), referring to things that exist for only a short period of time.

Interestingly, this word is especially meaningful to me because of my background in Ecology. Biologically, “ephemeral” is used to refer to species (particularly plants) with a very short life cycle, and can also function as a noun to indicate these types of organisms. As for its general uses, “ephemeral” falls close to the extreme of the “temporary” spectrum – just above “evanescent”, which indicates what vanishes almost as soon as it appears. So if you like to describe things that last about a day or a similarly short period of time, this is a good word to know. In my opinion, a great way to add a poetic touch to your stories is by writing about the “ephemeral” things in life!

What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?

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