Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Ephemeral

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is ephemeral. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Ephemeral means “lasting a very short time.”

// The performance was not recorded, a fact that made its ephemeral nature all the more poignant.

EPHEMERAL in Context

“The varieties available at the plant sale include spring ephemeral wildflowers, which bloom a short period of time in the spring….” — Cris Belle, WJW Fox 8 News (Cleveland, Ohio), 2 May 2022

Did You Know?

In its aquatic immature stages, the mayfly (order Ephemeroptera) has all the time in the world—or not quite: among the approximately 2,500 species of mayflies, some have as much as two years, but a year is more common. But in its adult phase, the typical mayfly hatches, takes wing for the first time, mates, and dies within the span of a few short hours. This briefest of heydays makes the insect a potent symbol of 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.”

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