The multifarious meanings of ‘Momental’

Today’s email inbox Oxford English Dictionary Word Of The Day is…



As far as ‘knowing thyself’ goes, momental is a fickle creature, caught seven ways between obscurity, rarity, statistics, maths, and philosophy. Behold:

1. Lasting only a moment; momentary.

2. Of or relating to momentum.

3. Of or relating to moments of time.

4. Of or relating to a moment or element, especially of a conceptual entity.

5. Of or relating to a moment of inertia. [see #2, smirk at the complete contradiction]

6. Of or relating to the moments of a random variable.

7. Momentous; of value or importance.

Now I know it’s been a while between OED Word Of The Day musings, but momental is so unexpectedly interesting that I couldn’t help but share. For though it is an unassuming word, its multifarious (and muddled) definitions give it that je ne sais quois that some like to call randominity.

Randominity is a specialised neologism, not entirely unlike The Dirk Gently Navigation Method:

“My own strategy is to find a car, or the nearest equivalent, which looks as if it knows where it is going and follow it. I rarely end up where I was intending to go, but often I end up somewhere that I needed to be. So what do you say to that?”


“A robust response. I salute you.”

{ Yes cheers, [Saint] Douglas Adams ( The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul) }

Now, momental clearly doesn’t know what it wants to mean. But all its various definitions are so nice in their own way that it hardly matters which one you intended to express in the first place (Ephemeral? Moving? Inert? Random?). Odds are you’ll be saying something of value or importance. Momental even.



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