Root & Synonym Clusters 10: Short-lived, Temporary

Nothing lasts forever, and the College Board knows it. Many fancy SAT words have the flavor, if not exact meaning of “short-lived” or “temporary,” and here they are:


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temporary – adjective – lasting for only a limited period of time; not permanent: a temporary job.

transient – adjective – lasting only for a short time; impermanent: a transient cold spell. noun – a person who is staying or working in a place for only a short time

transitory – adjective – not permanent: transitory periods of medieval greatness.

ephemeral – adjective – lasting for a very short time: fashions are ephemeral.

evanescent – adjective – soon passing out of sight, memory, or existence; quickly fading ordisappearing: a shimmering evanescent bubble.

fleeting – adjectivelasting for a very short time: hoping to get a fleeting glimpse of a whale underwater.


fugitive – noun – a person who has escaped from a place or is in hiding, esp. to avoid arrest or persecution: fugitives from justice | adjective – quick to disappear; fleeting: he entertained a fugitive idea that Barbara needed him; fugitive criminals.

momentary – adjective – lasting for a very short time; brief: a momentary lapse of concentration. Note: The word “moment,” aside from being an interval lasting 60 seconds, means importance: the issues were of little momentto the electorate.

short-lived – adjective – lasting only a short time: a short-lived romance

cursory – adjective – hasty and therefore not thorough or detailed: a cursory glance at the figures. Note: peruse is a verb used in the OPPOSITE context, meaning to examine carefully, NOT to skim.

A few fine distinctions from the American Heritage Dictionary for all you philologists 😉

SYNONYMS: transient, transitory, ephemeral, fleeting, fugitive, momentary, evanescent. These adjectives mean lasting, existing, or staying for a short time. Transient usually refers to what remains only briefly: We stayed at the inn as transient guests. “The moods were many and transient” (W.H. Hudson). Transitory more often means inherently short-lived or impermanent: “This false world is but transitory” (William Dunbar). “Action is transitory—a step, a blow,/The motion of a muscle, this way or that—/’Tis done” (William Wordsworth). Ephemeral, which in its original sense means living or lasting only for a day, implies conspicuously brief existence or duration: “the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed” (William Faulkner). Fleeting is applied to what slips away swiftly, often more swiftly than one would wish: “Art is long, and Time is fleeting” (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow). Fugitive especially describes what is elusive or quickly fades: “I cannot praise a fugitive . . . virtue, unexercised and unbreathed, that never sallies out and sees her adversary” (John Milton). Momentary implies the brevity of or as if of a single moment: I had some momentary misgivings that were quickly resolved. Evanescent suggests that something disappears like vapor: “The incidents which give excellence to biography are of a volatile and evanescent kind” (Samuel Johnson).

temporary, ephemeral, evanescent, fleeting, transient, transitory. Things that don’t last long are called temporary, which emphasizes a measurable but limited duration (a temporary appointment as chief of staff). Something that is fleeting passes almost instantaneously and cannot be caught or held (a fleeting thought; a fleeting glimpse). Transient also applies to something that lasts or stays only a short time (transient house guests), while transitory refers to something that is destined to pass away or come to an end (the transitory pleasure of eating). Evanescent and ephemeral describe what is even more short-lived. Ephemeral literally means ‘lasting for only a single day,’ but is often used to describe anything that is slight and perishable (his fame was ephemeral). Evanescent is a more lyrical word for whatever vanishes almost as soon as it appears. In other words, a job might be temporary, an emotion fleeting, a visitor transient, a woman’s beauty transitory, and glory ephemeral, but the flash of a bird’s wing across the sky would have to be called evanescent.

Finally, here’s a little poetic inspiration from Robert Frost. It’s short, sweet, and deep.


Nothing Gold Can Stay

  by Robert Frost

Nature's first green is gold, 
Her hardest hue to hold. 
Her early leaf's a flower; 
But only so an hour. 
Then leaf subsides to leaf. 
So Eden sank to grief, 
So dawn goes down to day. 
Nothing gold can stay.

– See more at: 

Here’s a great rap by Josh Wagner to help you remember all these Short-Lived words:

Click here to download the CPE Short-Lived Rap by Josh Wagner

YouTube Short-Lived Rap Video

Lyrics to the rap:


Every time I get a job my time is fleeting

Because I’m a day-dreamingIt’s lasting a short time like a shallow greeting (sup)I’m a fugitive run from everything I’m seeingQuick to disappear – speeding faster than my heart is beating

I’m reading into your life just take a telescope

And point it towards your house, I feel like I’m reading the most

Your story’s short lived – it’s only temporary

Our lives are changing every day – most things are transitory


Transient, synonyms

Rhyming with those homonyms

The blue sky was impermanent

Cuz I blew it away like im playing Sims


I can’t remember nursery

My thoughts are cursory

Not detailed enough to be important to me

Or should they be


My cursor clicks and picks a sale on ebay

the bid is momentary

Like the NSA through my technology I ruin your day



The SATs, you heard of them and their vocabulary

That’s what we’re studying, tryin’ to make it less scary

Through certain raps, this one is short-lived, temporary

Running out of rhymes, I know a guy named Gary


I can’t remember what i wanted to say

It’s quickly fading

My words are evanescent

Thinking quicker than I’m stating


This verse is the shortest

Two stanzas, what a forest

This one is ephemeral

I hope you like’d the chorus






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