Definition of ephemera in English:


plural noun

  • 1Things that exist or are used or enjoyed for only a short time.

    ‘there were papers, letters, old boxes—all sorts of ephemera’
    • ‘Should we really assume that all people everywhere want to collect digital ephemera and log their lives as they go by?’
    • ‘And in a medium too often tarred with the brush of ephemera, it stakes a claim as a prime example of the inherent power of comics.’
    • ‘No pedestrian gestures to glaze the eye; no taped electronic ephemera to abrade the ear; no agendas to manipulate the sensibilities.’
    • ‘Apart from postcards and letters, I have all sorts of ephemera, such as old cheques, receipts, leases, etc.’
    • ‘Finally, even for the most hardened drug user, the overdose of a close friend is likely to be a traumatic and significant event, more readily recalled than the ephemera and vicissitudes of daily drug activity.’
    • ‘Consisting principally of the artist's photographs of his performances and ‘cut’ buildings in their before and after states, along with conceptual drawings, notes and ephemera, it relies entirely on the power of our imagination.’
    • ‘I spent the evening going through the box, which is a replica of the thousands of boxes of souvenirs and ephemera he compulsively saved.’
    • ‘There's a slaphappy mix of editorial, including all the parachuted-in staples you'd expect from this type of rag: horoscopes, web ephemera and relationship advice.’
    • ‘I may post storage-closet ephemera the rest of the week, just for fun.’
    • ‘The science and technology of printed ephemera covers three components: paper, ink, and a method of transferring ink to paper in order to reproduce an original.’
    • ‘In the wake of photography, the scrapbook, the flower album, the signature album - all those vehicles for collecting and displaying the ephemera of a lifetime - flourished.’
    • ‘Are these full-fledged art works or just ephemera documenting chemically altered states of consciousness?’
    • ‘Last spring I had a chance to spend a few weeks in Tuscany and tops on my list was to collect as much ephemera as I could pack back for reference.’
    • ‘If you're an aficionado of arcane ephemera, you'll enjoy flipping through this at least once.’
    • ‘She festoons the table with elegant ephemera - the living room's silver-painted eucalyptus garland is repeated on the dining room's chandelier - and puts out a buffet of festive treats.’
    • ‘They were part of our lifetime, and their ephemera exists, pristine and whole, not yet chipped or broken, faulty with age, and to me, they are proof positive that monsters are real.’
    • ‘Each ‘portrait’ is filled with references to the relevant artist's work, but he also draws on such biographical ephemera as anecdotes and photographs.’
    • ‘Her huge collection of paintings, drawings, photographs, sculptures and ephemera were sold in 1998.’
    • ‘We made the radical decision to intershelve periodicals, government documents, maps, and ephemera with the books in their subject areas.’
    • ‘Load up on cool ephemera and tacky souvenirs: NYPD snow domes, stick-on bullet holes, match books, carrier bags, free postcards, anything that says I heart NY.’
    1. 1.1Collectable items that were originally expected to have only short-term usefulness or popularity.
      ‘Mickey Mouse ephemera’
      • ‘Gaze in awe at the massive autographed poster above the dining room table, the authentic concert costumes, the pins and shirts and ephemera carefully arrayed throughout the house.’
      • ‘I prowl antique stores and attend ephemera shows.’
      • ‘In all, 277 lots comprising clothing, medals, trophies and ephemera spanning a century will go under the hammer at the sale.’
      • ‘Sketchbooks, writings, and collected ephemera feed the paintings to recreate the intensity and atmosphere of these countries.’
      • ‘Each of the three main stories (along with the other one-page strips and ephemera that make up this collection) follow a narrative as solid as an Abbott and Costello picture.’
      • ‘The result is a dizzying collection of posters, magazines and other ephemera which blankets the walls.’
      • ‘Also included was a wall of paper records, including photos, letters, drawings, bills, diagrams, computer renderings and other ephemera related to the creation of the event.’
      • ‘The show included posters, sculptures, games, books, pamphlets, toys, decorative items and ephemera produced in many of the warring nations during the two world conflicts of the 20th century.’
      • ‘There is the unique Glasgow collection, which includes books, maps, newspapers, illustrations, photographs, manuscripts and ephemera from all periods of the city's history, and the well-thumbed family archives.’
      • ‘It is filled with his antiques, paintings, books and York ephemera, and resembles a private museum.’
      • ‘Drawings and ephemera throughout the room make it a veritable collector's cabinet of curiosities.’
      • ‘This show of some 165 prints and related ephemera is the first in-depth assessment of the artist's work.’
      • ‘The exhibition of his work at the Museum until 25 January includes Wedgwood mugs, plates and bowls, furniture, a pocket handkerchief, printed ephemera for famous shops, book illustrations and poster designs.’
      • ‘There are magazines and posters and other ephemera scattered about.’
      • ‘Featuring 140 posters, prints, book designs and political and commercial ephemera, it also showcases original layouts and photo-montages by the Italian futurists, the German and French dadaists and the Dutch de Stijl group.’
      • ‘In effect, therefore, each participant was left to decide whether ‘snapshot’ constituted a category of one's own camera activity, a variety of keepsake, or a genre of collectible ephemera.’
      • ‘Not only that, but there will also be a selection of etchings, illustrations, ephemera and maps on many of the stands.’
      • ‘Wiener has analysed nearly every recorded case of male-on-female violence in the nineteenth century, drawing his data from court records, government records in the home office papers, law reports, newspapers, and printed ephemera.’
      • ‘We're told that pitiful few of the original records, sleeves, and promotional ephemera still exist.’
      • ‘As an ephemera collector from way back, I am particular vexed by the suggestion that history holds negligible value in a culture dominated by technological excess.’


Late 16th century: plural of ephemeron, from Greek, neuter of ephēmeros lasting only a day. As a singular noun the word originally denoted a plant said by ancient writers to last only one day, or an insect with a short lifespan, and hence was applied (late 18th century) to a person or thing of short-lived interest. Current use has been influenced by plurals such as trivia and memorabilia.