Ephemeral things (from Greek "εφήμερος" - "ephemeros", literally "lasting only one day" [ [http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0057%3Aentry%3D%2345743 Ephemeros] , Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, "A Greek-English Lexicon", at Perseus] ) are transitory, existing only briefly. Typically the term is used to describe objects found in nature, although it can describe a wide range of things.

Geographical examples

An ephemeral waterbody is a wetland, spring, stream, river, pond or lake that only exists for a short period following precipitation or snowmelt. They are not the same as intermittent or seasonal waterbodies, which exist for longer periods, but not all year round.

Examples of ephemeral streams are the Ugab River in Southern Africa, and a number of small ephemeral watercourses that drain Talak in northern Niger. Other notable ephemeral rivers include the Todd River and Sandover River in Central Australia as well as the Son River, Batha River and the Trabancos River.

Lake Carnegie in Western Australia and Lake Cowal in New South Wales are ephemeral lakes. Lake Tuzkan and Mystic Lake in California are ephemeral.

There are also ephemeral islands such as Banua Wuhu and Home Reef, which reappear and disappear beneath the waves.

Biological examples

Many plants are adapted to an ephemeral lifestyle, in which they spend most of the year or longer as seeds before conditions are right for a brief period of growth and reproduction. The spring ephemeral plant mouse-ear cress is a well known example. Animals can be ephemeral, with brine shrimp being an example.

Ephemeral artifacts

Ephemeral can also be used as an adjective to refer to a fast-deteriorating importance or temporary nature of an object to a person. Brands are notoriously ephemeral assets, and magazine publishing was once much more ephemeral than it is today.

A number of art forms can be considered ephemeral because of their temporary nature. Early land art and all sand sculptures, ice sculptures and chalk drawings on footpaths are examples of ephemeral art. G. Augustine Lynas and Duthain Dealbh create ephemeral sculptures.

Other uses

The placenta is considered an ephemeral organ present during gestation and pregnancy.

A sensation which is felt by a person for a certain period of time before needing replenishment can be referred to as ephemeral. Often, happiness is described as ephemeral, as one does not find it as a permanent state, with human lives always varying shades of happiness and disappointment.

Further reading

* Christine Buci-Glucksmann, Esthetique De L'ephemere, Galilee, ISBN 2718606223


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Ephemeral — E*phem er*al, a. 1. Beginning and ending in a day; existing only, or no longer than, a day; diurnal; as, an ephemeral flower. [1913 Webster] 2. Short lived; existing or continuing for a short time only. Ephemeral popularity. V. Knox. [1913… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • ephemeral — [e fem′ər əl; ifem′ər əl, ēfem′ər əl] adj. [< Gr ephēmeros (see EPHEMERON) + AL] 1. lasting only one day 2. short lived; transitory [ephemeral glory] n. an ephemeral thing; specif., an organism with a brief life cycle SYN. TRANSIENT… …   English World dictionary

  • Ephemeral — E*phem er*al, n. Anything lasting but a day, or a brief time; an ephemeral plant, insect, etc. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • ephemeral — I adjective brevis, brief, caducous, caducus, continuing for a short time, deciduous, disappearing, elusive, enduring only a very short time, ephemerous, evanescent, existing for a short time, fleeting, fugacious, fugitive, hurried, impermanent,… …   Law dictionary

  • ephemeral — 1560s; see EPHEMERA (Cf. ephemera) + AL (Cf. al) (1). Related: Ephemerality. Originally of diseases and lifespans; extended sense of transitory is from 1630s …   Etymology dictionary

  • ephemeral — transient, transitory, passing, fugitive, fleeting, evanescent, momentary, short lived Analogous words: *brief, short …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • ephemeral — [adj] momentary, passing brief, episodic, evanescent, fleeting, flitting, fugacious, fugitive, impermanent, short, short lived, temporary, transient, transitory, unenduring, volatile; concepts 798,801 Ant. enduring, eternal, everlasting,… …   New thesaurus

  • ephemeral — ► ADJECTIVE ▪ lasting or living for a very short time. DERIVATIVES ephemerality noun ephemerally adverb …   English terms dictionary

  • ephemeral — I. adjective Etymology: Greek ephēmeros lasting a day, daily, from epi + hēmera day Date: 1576 1. lasting one day only < an ephemeral fever > 2. lasting a very short time < ephemeral pleasures > Synonyms: see transient • ephemerally …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • ephemeral — [[t]ɪfe̱mərəl[/t]] ADJ GRADED If you describe something as ephemeral, you mean that it lasts only for a very short time. [FORMAL] He talked about the country s ephemeral unity being shattered by the defeat... These paintings are in some ways a… …   English dictionary

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