Word: evanescent

Pronunciation: e-və-NE-s(ə)nt

Part of Speech: adjective

Definition: soon passing out of sight, memory, or existence; quickly fading or disappearing

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Why are there so many poetic ways to say “short-lived”? Are artists simply fascinated by the things in life that don’t last? I know I am, which is why I find today’s Word of the Week so intriguing. Maybe it’s the way it sounds, maybe it’s the images of fading flowers and vanishing bubbles it calls to my mind, or maybe it’s just because it reminds me of a certain gothic rock band I used to listen to all the time as a teenager. Whatever the reason, whenever I write need a word for something fleeting, “evanescent” may be one of my favorite words to consider!

Anything that is “evanescent” quickly fades or disappears, passing out of sight, memory, or existence. The word arose in the early 18th century in the sense “almost imperceptible” and comes from the Latin verb evanescere, meaning “to disappear”. This verb stems from two roots: the preposition ex “out of” and the adjective vanus “empty”.

“Evanescent” is another good example of a word with an adjective, a verb, and a noun form; the verb “evanesce” means to “pass out of sight, memory, or existence”, while the noun “evanescence” refers to the event of disappearing or the quality of being fleeting. According to Oxford Dictionaries, “evanescent” also has a specific definition in physics: “denoting a field or wave that extends into a region where it cannot propagate and whose amplitude therefore decreases with distance”. Similar to “ephemeral“, “evanescent” seems to be a chiefly literary term, so if you ever need to poetically describe the short-lived things or ideas in your stories, this is an excellent word to keep on your list!

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

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