nictitate

play
verb nic·ti·tate \ˈnik-tə-ˌtāt\

Definition of nictitate

nictitated

;

nictitating

  1. intransitive verb
  2. :  wink

nictitate was our Word of the Day on 11/20/2016. Hear the podcast!

Did You Know?

Nictitate didn't just happen in the blink of an eye; it developed over time as an alteration of the older verb nictate, which also means "to wink." Both verbs trace to the Latin word for winking, nictare. The addition of the extra syllable was apparently influenced by Latin verbs ending in -itare, such as palpitare and agitare (which gave us palpitate and agitate, respectively). Today, nictitate has a special use in the animal world. Since the early 18th century, scientists have used nictitating membrane to describe the so-called "third eyelid": the thin, usually transparent membrane in the eyes of birds, fishes, and other vertebrates that helps keep the eyeball moist and clean.

Origin and Etymology of nictitate

alteration of nictate to wink, from Latin nictatus, past participle of nictare — more at connive


First Known Use: 1713


Medical Dictionary

nictitate

play
intransitive verb nic·ti·tate \ˈnik-tə-ˌtāt\

Medical Definition of nictitate

nictitated

;

nictitating

  1. :  wink

Learn More about nictitate


Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up nictitate? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!

WORD OF THE DAY

the point at which something begins

Get Word of the Day daily email!

WORD GAMES

Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!

  • istock-refers-to-this-as-a-tumble-of-strawberries-which-sounded-pretty-nice-to-us
  • Which is a synonym of garner?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!