Difference Wiki

Temporary vs. Temporal: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on November 8, 2023
Temporary refers to something lasting for only a limited period of time. Temporal relates to time or life's temporal (earthly) existence.

Key Differences

Temporary is used to describe something that is not permanent and is intended to last only for a short period. For instance, a temporary job is one that is only meant to last for a while until a permanent position is found. Temporal, on the other hand, is a broader term that relates to time or secular life as opposed to the spiritual. While "temporary" highlights the short-lived nature of an object or state, "temporal" is more about relating to worldly as opposed to eternal matters.
The distinction between temporary and temporal becomes clearer when we consider their usage in different contexts. Temporary often comes into play when we talk about solutions, accommodations, or situations. For example, a temporary restraining order is issued for a short duration. Temporal is used in contexts that concern time or chronological sequences, or in a philosophical or religious context to contrast with the eternal or spiritual, such as temporal authority versus spiritual authority.
Temporary emphasizes the brief nature of an event or state and is typically used in a more practical, everyday sense. For example, a temporary password is provided to access a service for a limited amount of time. Temporal, while it can also refer to time, often has a grander scale or philosophical implication, such as in discussions about the temporal universe, which encompasses all of time and space as we understand it.
In the world of employment, we often hear about temporary positions, which are jobs not intended to last indefinitely. These contrast with the concept of temporal power, which is the political and secular authority of a ruler, not necessarily limited by time, but in terms of its domain, separate from spiritual or religious power.
Temporary and temporal can sometimes be used interchangeably when they refer to time, but their connotations differ. A temporary phase implies it will pass soon, while a temporal phase could imply it is related to the human concept of time, potentially without the connotation of brevity. For instance, temporary changes in policy are expected to revert after a while, whereas temporal changes might refer to changes within the time-bound framework of human experience.

Comparison Chart


Short-term, not lasting
Related to time, but not specifically short or long-term


Practical situations
Philosophical or spiritual contexts


Transient, fleeting
Pertaining to worldly or secular matters


Implies an end point
Does not imply an end, more about the concept of time


Often used for objects, jobs, situations
Used for authority, power, and the physical universe

Temporary and Temporal Definitions


Not permanent.
The company offered him a temporary position.


The temporal authorities were separate from the church.


Intended for short-term use.
She lived in temporary housing during the renovation.


Pertaining to time.
Scientists study the temporal progression of the universe.


The committee made a temporary ruling on the issue.


Relating to worldly as opposed to spiritual affairs.
The king's temporal power was absolute.


We put up a temporary shelter to protect us from the storm.


Earthly life.
Monks renounce temporal pleasures for spiritual fulfillment.


Lasting for a limited time.
The festival was set up at a temporary location.


Of or relating to the material world.
He focused on temporal wealth rather than spiritual wealth.


Lasting, used, serving, or enjoyed for a limited time.


Of, relating to, or limited by time
A temporal dimension.
Temporal and spatial boundaries.


One that serves for a limited time
An office staffed by temporaries.


Of or relating to the material world; worldly
The temporal possessions of the Church.


Can a building be temporal?

Not usually, as "temporal" relates to time or secular authority.

Can "temporal" mean long-term?

It can, as it relates to time generally without specifying duration.

Are temporary workers full-time?

They can be, but their employment is short-term.

Is a temporary job meant to become permanent?

Not necessarily, it's intended for a short period.

Does "temporal" have religious connotations?

It can, especially when contrasting with the spiritual.

Does "temporal" relate to time management?

It can in the sense of secular or worldly time.

Is "temporary" always short-term?

Yes, it implies a limited duration.

Can something be temporary and temporal?

Yes, if it's short-lived and relates to secular life.

Do temporal matters concern history?

Yes, in the context of time periods and secular events.

Can "temporary" refer to emotions?

Yes, as in temporary sadness.

Are "temporary" solutions ideal?

They're often a stopgap until a permanent solution is found.

Does temporary mean the same as interim?

Yes, both imply a placeholder until something permanent is established.

Is a temporary employee the same as a temp?

Yes, "temp" is short for temporary employee.

Are temporary fixes often used?

Yes, for immediate but short-term resolution.

Is "temporal" used in science?

Yes, especially in discussions about time and the universe.

Is "temporal" used in medicine?

Yes, as in temporal lobe related to the brain.

Does "temporal" imply impermanence?

Not necessarily, it's more about the concept of time.

Do temporal powers change?

They can, especially with shifts in secular governance.

Can a contract be temporary?

Yes, if it's set for a limited duration.

Can temporal refer to art?

Indirectly, in the sense of art from different time periods.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

Trending Comparisons

Popular Comparisons

New Comparisons