Alternative forms




From Middle English eternyte, from Old French eternité, from Latin aeternitās. Displaced native Old English ēcnes.





eternity (countable and uncountable, plural eternities)

  1. (uncountable) Existence without end, infinite time.
    • 1829, John Wesley, Sermons on Several Occasions[1], 10th edition, volume 2, Sermon LVIII: On the Eternity of God, page 1:
      Eternity has generally been considered as divisible into two parts; which have been termed, eternity a parte ante, and eternity a parte post: that is, in plain English, that eternity which is past, and that eternity which is to come.
    • 1886, Augustus Hopkins Strong, Systematic Theology: a Compendium and Commonplace-book Designed for the Use of Theological Students[2], page 190:
      This theory regards creation as an act of God in eternity past.
    • 2000, Thomas Boston, Human Nature in Its Fourfold State[3], page 247:
      Those who like not the company of the saints on earth will get none of it in eternity; but, as godless company is their delight now, they will afterwards get enough of it, when they have eternity to pass in the roaring and blaspheming society of devils and reprobates in hell.
  2. (uncountable, philosophy, theology) Existence outside of time.
    • 1879, Erastus Snow, “Rest Signifies Change, etc.”, in Brigham Young, editor, Journal of Discourses, volume 21, published 1881:
      We sometimes speak of eternity in contradistinction to time; and often say, "through time and into eternity;" and again "from eternity to eternity," which is simply another form of expressing the same idea, and "pass through time into eternity." in other words, time is a short period allotted to man in his probationary state—and we use the word time in contradistinction to the word eternity, merely for the accommodation of man in his finite sphere, that we may comprehend and learn to measure periods.
  3. (countable) A period of time which extends infinitely far into the future.
  4. (metaphysical) The remainder of time that elapses after death.
    • 1905, Lord Dunsany [i.e., Edward Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany], “Pegāna”, in The Gods of Pegāna, London: [Charles] Elkin Mathews, [], →OCLC, pages 75–76:
      When the wind blows not, where, then, is the wind? / Or when thou art not living, where art thou? / What should the wind care for the hours of calm or thou for death? / Thy life is long, Eternity is short. / So short that, shouldst thou die and Eternity should pass, and after the passing of Eternity thou shouldst live again, thou wouldst say: ‘I closed mine eyes but for an instant.’
  5. (informal, hyperbolic) A comparatively long time.
    It's been an eternity since we last saw each other.

Usage notes

  • In the sense "a comparatively long time", eternity is always used with the indefinite article (an eternity).
  • In philosophy, the common use of eternity to refer to an infinite time is considered incorrect, eternity referring to existence outside of time; existence within time but of an infinite temporal duration is called everlastingness or sempiternity




  • (antonym(s) of existence outside of time): sempiternity

Derived terms



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