Ephemera Dictionary Page Pronounciation Web

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If you are new to the world of collecting ephemera, or perhaps you’ve heard one of your favorite crafters and artists or even a friend use the word, this post will explain everything you need to know!

How to Say the Word Ephemera

Let’s start with the basics: how to say the word ephemera and what it sounds like!

In a modern dictionary, the pronunciation for the word ephemera typically looks something like this:


While you might know what that all means if you read dictionaries and books like 50,000 Words Divided and Spelled and pay attention to pronunciation keys, even then many of us aren’t well versed in all of those symbols.

Half the time, those symbols aren’t even correct!

Fortunately, in my 1926 Funk + Wagnall’s Dictionary, we’re given a much easier to understand and read phonetic spelling of the word!


You pronounce the e the same way you’d say the word efficient or effect. This is because the ph in the spelling of the word is pronounced with the f sound. (And, in case you are wondering, when two letters are combined for one sound, that’s called a consonant digraph!)

Em is pronounced just as you might say “Auntie Em, Auntie Em!” if you were Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, or if you were saying the letter M itself.

The second e in the word is pronounced kind of quickly and is not stressed and a short e sound. A lot of times, depending who you talk to, when we say the word ephemera it sounds more like this where it’s nearly silent:


The last letter of the word, a, is the short a vowel sound and sounds a little more like “uh” or “ah”.

Most importantly, you shouldn’t stress too much about how to say the word. I have found the way you pronounce it however mostly just depends on where you live and who you talk to. You say tomato, I say tomato kind of thing.

This would be a good time to also mention I’m from Pittsburgh, so we’re pretty famous for saying words all wrong anyways – a lot of times even if you say a lot of words the “right” way no one will know what you’re saying!

Normally I wouldn’t go into such detail on how to say a word, but for some reason this one really trips non-collectors up, so I figured we should start here. Once you’re saying the word, we can get into its meaning!

The Meaning of The Word Ephemera

I love etymology + the history of words, so naturally to really understand what I’m talking about when I use the word ephemera, it’s helpful to turn to Etymonline (one of my favorite word websites!) to learn the origins of the word.

In Greek, the word ephemeros means “Daily, for the day” and also “lasting or living only one day, short-lived.” The Greek word Ephemeroi translates to “men… creatures of a day.”

Many people think the word ephemera is French but it’s actually derived from Greek and Latin words, as much of the French language and other Romantic languages are. The French word éphémère is pronounced and spelled differently, but translates to the same meaning.

During the middle ages in the 14th century, the term was mostly used in medicine – meaning a fever or brief illness that lasted only one day.

In other fields, such as science, biology and taxonomy, the word ephemera was often used to describe insects and other things that did not live very long.

Ephemeridae is the scientific name for the family of insects that have a very short life, such as mayflies and dayflies.

Ephemeridae Mayfly
Insects in the Ephemeridae family such as the Mayfly live only one day!

The word ephemera meaning short lived and lasting only a day is a BIG part of what makes our modern day definition for ephemera collectible!

While I go into more detail on just exactly what is ephemera and some examples of it, as collectors we use the word ephemera to refer to all sorts of things that would normally not be saved or collected for long periods of time.

These are things we usually discard and are not really meant to be saved.

Paper items are especially common in the world of ephemera collecting, because paper is not exactly the sturdiest of materials and can be easily destroyed.

There’s also a lot of things on paper we rarely save, such as our old math homework from 20 years ago or a ticket stub for an event you attended.

Although, occasionally, we are very lucky and our parents have a stash of this stuff in their attic!

Of course, ephemera is not limited to just paper – things like bottle caps or even food wrappers and packaging can often count as ephemera, although they also have their own specific genres of things to collect.

For example, would you believe many people collect the labels off of old cans? The Label Man has quite the collection!

That’s something that was never intended to be saved or preserved. Unlike your family’s heirloom silverware, not too many people were keeping old cans because they looked pretty!

How I Learned About Ephemera

While I’ve always been drawn to anything paper + words + vintage, it wasn’t until much, much later in my life that I learned it had a name and was called ephemera – and even later than that when I realized people collected it, too!

I discovered ephemera was a thing about the same time I really started getting into art journaling. Again, art journaling was something I always did but never knew was a “thing” until finding and connecting with other people online.

Vintage ephemera is a lot of fun to use in journals, so naturally it was popular and the more I looked into it the more I fell in love!

The history of collecting ephemera is also very interesting to get into – it really wasn’t until the 1970’s + 1980’s that even collecting it was really properly recognized!

More Resources to Learn About Ephemera

I am always working to add more resources to Resalvaged about collecting ephemera (especially because Ephemera typically overlaps all the other things I’m interested in collecting!). If you want to learn more about ephemera, here are some other posts in our library you’ll find helpful:

  • Examples of Ephemera
  • The History of Ephemera
  • Collecting Themed or Types of Ephemera
  • How to Start Collecting Ephemera
  • Ways to Store Ephemera
  • Ideas for Displaying and Using Ephemera

I hope this is helpful for you and of course if you have *any* questions just ask in the comments below – I’m always happy to help (and I could talk about old paper ALL day!)

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