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[nok-tur-nl] /nɒkˈtɜr nl/
of or relating to the night (opposed to diurnal).
done, occurring, or coming at night:
nocturnal visit.
active at night (opposed to diurnal):
nocturnal animals.
opening by night and closing by day, as certain flowers (opposed to diurnal).
Archaic. an astrolabe for telling time at night or for determining latitude by the position of certain stars in reference to Polaris.
Origin of nocturnal
1475-85; < Late Latin nocturnālis. See nocturn, -al1
Related forms
nocturnality, noun
nocturnally, adverb
nonnocturnal, adjective
nonnocturnally, adverb
seminocturnal, adjective
unnocturnal, adjective
unnocturnally, adverb
Can be confused
diurnal, nocturnal.
2. nighttime. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for nocturnal
  • The diurnal ones prefer the daylight hours, while nocturnal species haunt the night.
  • The sundial's nocturnal counterpart, the water clock, was designed to measure temporal hours at night.
  • The illustrations are a blend of realism and fantasy, and set the mood for this nocturnal caper.
  • Being nocturnal, flying squirrels must have good eyesight, he said.
  • If only I were still a nocturnal creature.
  • Many of the animals that eat red-eyed tree frogs are nocturnal
  • They thrive in the dense rain forests and are primarily nocturnal.
  • Before the extinctions, most mammals were small nocturnal creatures.
  • Remember that, by nature, cats tend toward the nocturnal.
  • In the foothills of Provence, smoke curls through nocturnal pines.
British Dictionary definitions for nocturnal


of, used during, occurring in, or relating to the night
(of animals) active at night
(of plants) having flowers that open at night and close by day
Compare diurnal
Derived Forms
nocturnality, noun
nocturnally, adverb
Word Origin
C15: from Late Latin nocturnālis, from Latin nox night
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for nocturnal

late 15c., from Old French nocturnal "nightly, nocturnal," or directly from Late Latin nocturnalis, from Latin nocturnus "belonging to the night," from nox (genitive noctis) "night," cognate with Old English neaht (see night) + -urnus, suffix forming adjectives of time. Nocturnal emission "involuntary ejaculation during sleep" first recorded 1813.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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nocturnal in Medicine

nocturnal noc·tur·nal (nŏk-tûr'nəl)

  1. Of, relating to, or occurring in the night.

  2. Most active at night.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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nocturnal in Science
  1. Occurring at night.

  2. Most active at night. Many animals, such as owls and bats, are nocturnal.

  3. Having flowers that open during the night and close at daylight. Nocturnal plants are often pollinated by moths. Compare diurnal.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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