Definition of nictitate
nictitate was our Word of the Day on 11/20/2016. Hear the podcast!
Theme music by Joshua Stamper ©2006 New Jerusalem Music/ASCAP
nictitate and the Zoo
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.
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).