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How ephemeral does something have to be to be ephemeral? I think of mayflies (which only live one day), but maybe I am just destroyed by my knowledge of Classical Greek and that ἡμέρα means 'day'. Can you call a technology like the CD that only lasted for a few decades ephemeral?

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Can you call a technology like the CD that only lasted for a few decades ephemeral?

Context is everything, obviously.

In the geological time scale, multimedia technology is, in fact, ephemeral. In some other context, it might not be.

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Ephemera as a noun is used to mean printed matter such as advertising flyers, posters etc. which were only intended to be relevant for a brief period (but not literally one day).

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ephermeral TFD I would not at this point in time call it such.

lasting for only a short time; transitory; short-lived: ephemeral pleasure.

Ephemeral was originally a medical term with the specific meaning "lasting only one day," as a fever or sickness (Hemera means "day" in Greek.) The dominance of the the CD format lasted from ~1980 to about ~2008. One's childhood has been so labeled. Context is important. I suspect in a century the CD format will be called such.

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  • I should have loked that up in Liddell and Scott myself, where I now also can see that the mayfly indeed was τὸ ἐφήμερον.
    – Hartmut
    Apr 29, 2018 at 11:52
  • I have to insist, though, that I do not support the reasoning that etymology locks up the meaning of a word for ever. The Greek word that 'to baptize' goes back to originally meant 'to sheathe (a sword)', and German Schadenfreude is often better translated into English by 'glee' than 'schadenfreude'. This is interesting to know, but rather irrelevant when it comes to English usage.
    – Hartmut
    Apr 29, 2018 at 12:36
  • For historians of philosophy, it is relevant to ask if English 'angst' is borrowed from Danish (since Kierkegaard wrote in Danish) or German (in contrast to Danish, German 'Angst' means more or less the same as English 'fear' and would have been unnecessary to borrow). But again: this is not relevant in a discussion of English usage.
    – Hartmut
    Apr 29, 2018 at 12:36

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