I'm writing a story in which certain objects no longer exist. I was going to refer to them as "relics" but a relic is something from a bygone age that survived the passage of time and now exists in our time.

What do you call something that no longer exists. I need a word that conveys the idea that these inanimate objects did once exist but no longer do.

Edit: I didn't want to reveal too much but I guess I need to add context. A character in my story is ancient. He is from a time when stars still existed but the stars have long since faded away and have been forgotten by everyone except him. In passing he mentions how he misses the stars and another character asks him what stars are. He says something along the lines of "Relics of a bygone age".

I'm looking for a word that replaces "relics" and implies that the stars did not survive the passage of time.

  • 1
    Could you give a sentence with a blank to stimulate ideas? Commented Sep 30, 2017 at 7:56
  • 1
    I updated my post. I hope it helps.
    – Ouro
    Commented Sep 30, 2017 at 8:09
  • DEFUNCT, NONEXISTENT, BYGONE, ONE-TIME can perhaps be suitable! Commented Sep 30, 2017 at 8:58
  • @mahmudkoya Ouro is looking for a noun to replace "Relics" in his sentence: an adjective will not fit (quite apart from the sentence already containing bygone).
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Sep 30, 2017 at 9:06
  • I started writing an answer suggesting reminder but trying to explain why that works for me (the wistful thinking on what has passed away, in this case) was too difficult. And it strayed into writing advice anyway.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Sep 30, 2017 at 9:14

3 Answers 3


A word which does not literally refer directly to the vanished objects but can work in the example phrase by metonymy is memories. A web search for just memories now turns up many prior examples of this usage. E.g.

Eastman Kodak and Polaroid are just memories now.

from Kirby Engineering: West Coast Project by George Clapper. The companies are not literally memories, but since memories are all that remain* he can figuratively say that they are.

* Not literally true either, but that's not the point.


Hard to think of a noun but there are plenty of adjectives, for better or worse.

Obsolete? Extinct? Nonextant?

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/nonextant: adjective : no longer existing or accessible through loss or destruction e.g., nonextant records


There is something tragic about a memory that is yours alone. You cannot share a memory with someone by telling them about it. That's something altogether different. Memories aren't the telling of a thing. Memories are things that we relive as if in a daydream. This is why when we meet old work-colleagues or school friends we "reminisce" about old-times. Sharing memories somehow reassures us that our lives weren't just a dream. That's the tragedy. Without someone to share a memory that part of our life is somehow indistinguishable from a dream.

Those of us who have lost someone have a name for this:


After which something, someone, is simply gone.

The stars are dead and only your character remembers. No words can bring them back. There's something poignant about that. It's a powerful idea and a good idea for a story. I hope you and your story did well.

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