I am looking for an adjective that can be used to describe something that is somewhere between ephemeral, transient or temporary and persistent, permanent or continual in length of time. That is, I want to give the impression that something can last for a while (not fleeting), but that can change at any time and can or will have an ending. Thus even persistent sounds too permanent for what I'm looking for.

Some ideas I've come across so far that seem too long / too permanent: preserved, protracted, prolonged, lasting, long-lived (maybe medium-lived?), durable. And some that I think are potential candidates: retained, sustained, maintained, stable, durational. My current favorite is durational, which seems to give the right feel. On the other hand, it feels awkward to me when I use it in a sentence. I'd love to hear other suggestions or recommendations. Also, please let me know if you agree or disagree with my interpretation of the choices mentioned here or in the comments.

I'm looking to contrast a temporary selection (like a user doing a mouseover or hover to see a tooltip) with a durational selection that implies the user has chosen some things to look at for a time, but may modify that selection at any time as they desire.

So which of these sound like something that will last a while, but you're free to modify or delete or undo whenever you like:

  • a retained selection
  • a sustained selection
  • a maintained selection
  • a stable selection
  • a durational selection
  • an impermanent selection
  • a semi-permanent selection
  • an epochal selection (ok that does sound long!)
  • 1
    How about he simple, direct, impermanent?
    – Dan Bron
    Jun 23, 2015 at 21:43
  • 1
    semi-permanent. Also, did a thesaurus say anything?
    – Mitch
    Jun 23, 2015 at 21:46
  • 1
    I think impermanent implies too short a duration and would therefore not contrast well with temporary, looking at synonyms on dictionary.com I see fleeting, temporary, ephemeral, evanescent. But please let me know if you don't agree with this implication.
    – Kris
    Jun 23, 2015 at 21:48
  • 1
    Is longevity too ... long? (PS: I think @FumbleFingers made a mistake flagging this. The two questions are very different.)
    – Avon
    Jun 23, 2015 at 21:55
  • 1
    The dupe isn't a dupe. The answers there have nothing to do with longevity: they deal in space (distance), not time. Voting to re-open.
    – Dan Bron
    Jun 23, 2015 at 21:57

3 Answers 3


How about "semiperennial"like the plant snap dragon(selected from wordsmith.com) which acts like perennial in mild winter and dies completely in hard winter? Semidurable may do as well.


Don't recommend 'durational'. It's not used outside of the performance art context. Of the rest, 'retained' sounds closest, but I would probably say "working selection" or "working sample" or "saved selection", "reserved" or even just 'selected'. Or perhaps the word from your description "chosen" is as good as any. An illustrative sentence would help.


[appologies for this non answer answer, but it wouldn't fit in a comment, and I thought it might still be relevant]

This sounds a lot like you're trying to describe a computer UX affordance.

My advice is to stop trying to map a complex abstract into plain English. What'll likely happen is that you'll keep stretching until you find something you're satisfied with, but your audience won't have gone through the same process, and so will not come to the same conclusion.

To illustrate, you've gotten caught up thinking that epoch means a long time, when it actually just means a distinct time. In colloquial computer terms, for instance, the Unix epoch is the period of time from the 1st of January 1970 until the end of time. It is so called because the Unix system standard for storing a time value is in seconds since that moment. If you tried to use that word here, you might end up giving the false impression that the selection was entirely permanent. Alternatively, you can look at the same usage as being the same as the usage of epoch in physics, where it only denotes a single moment in time. In that case the colloquial computer speaker might consider the Unix epoch to be that one moment in 1970. That would instead make the meaning of your epochal selection a snapshot of a selection perhaps?

There are similar problems with the rest of the terms too. Stability, for instance, in computer algorithms usually refers to resistance against shuffling order. A stable sort is one in which elements with the same sort order will remain in the same order relative to each other after the sort. I might read "stable selection" as a selection in which the order I chose the items is preserved.

If you have a selection list, call it that. If you support temporary selection on top of that, call it that. Everything else just isn't selected, right? If you support even more selection modes, then it's probably worth naming the individual selection collections something else entirely: the duration of the selection is now a saturated concept.

Granted, this is tricky stuff. Best of luck navigating the wild linguistic frontier of software documentation!

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