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Alternative forms[edit]


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


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ɪˈtɜː.nə.ti/
    • (file)
  • (US) enPR: ĭ-tûrʹnĭ-tē, IPA(key): /ɪˈtɝnɪti/


eternity (countable and uncountable, plural eternities)

  1. (uncountable) Existence without end, infinite time.
    • 1829, John Wesley, Sermons on Several Occasions[1], volume 2, 10th edition, 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.
    • 1837, Letitia Elizabeth Landon, Ethel Churchill, volume 1, page 220:
      Every niche was filled by a funeral urn, and by marble shapes that bent down in a pale eternity of sorrow.
  4. (metaphysical) The remainder of time that elapses after death.
  5. (informal, hyperbolic) A comparatively long time.
    It's been an eternity since we last saw each other.
    • 1899 Feb, Joseph Conrad, “The Heart of Darkness”, in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, page 208:
      I had to wait in the station for ten days - an eternity.

Usage notes[edit]

  • 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



Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]


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