noc·​tur·​nal | \ näk-ˈtər-nᵊl How to pronounce nocturnal (audio) \

Definition of nocturnal

1 : of, relating to, or occurring in the night a nocturnal journey nocturnal activities
2 : active at night a nocturnal predator nocturnal insects, such as mosquitoes

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Other Words from nocturnal

nocturnally \ näk-​ˈtər-​nᵊl-​ē How to pronounce nocturnally (audio) \ adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for nocturnal



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Examples of nocturnal in a Sentence

he bought a new telescope so he could pursue his favorite nocturnal hobby of astronomy
Recent Examples on the Web The specimen has relatively large eyes, which may indicate the dinosaur was nocturnal. John Pickrell, National Geographic, "This small dinosaur had a marvelous sense of touch, detailed fossils reveal," 5 Oct. 2020 According to LiveScience's Jessie Szalay, coral snakes are known to be nocturnal and reclusive. Alison Medley, Houston Chronicle, "Coral snake spotted along popular trail in Memorial Park," 29 Sep. 2020 Radars readings like the one posted on the official NWS Twitter account, which is believed to show the bats coming out of a cave, tunnel or bridge, help scientists track the nocturnal animals, which are difficult to spot in the dark. Alaa Elassar, CNN, "The National Weather Service spotted a massive bat colony on its weather radar," 19 Sep. 2020 All of this has precedent in the nocturnal ritual fantasy. Talia Lavin, The New Republic, "QAnon, Blood Libel, and the Satanic Panic," 29 Sep. 2020 The nocturnal soundtrack to Laura Schmid’s childhood in Duluth, Minn., of the 1950s was the foghorn warning ships on Lake Superior. Washington Post, "Hum, thrum and roar: Modern sounds bring joy to those who hear them," 28 Sep. 2020 That nocturnal excursion, just after midnight on Sept. 22, 1827, occurred four years after Smith had first unearthed the artifacts. David Noyce, The Salt Lake Tribune, "This week in Mormon Land: Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s review of ‘The Book of Mormon' and looking back at three church milestones," 24 Sep. 2020 Her solemn, nocturnal black-and-white images honor the intimate rituals of fandom and the fights themselves, in all their bombastic drama. Siddhartha Mitter, New York Times, "Photoville Adds New Venues, Vistas and Vision," 21 Sep. 2020 Counter to the popular image of bats, not all of them are nocturnal. Eva Botkin-kowacki, The Christian Science Monitor, "Holy misdirected anger! Bats not to blame, say scientists.," 15 Sep. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'nocturnal.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of nocturnal

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for nocturnal

Middle English, borrowed from Anglo-French & Late Latin; Anglo-French nocturnel, borrowed from Late Latin nocturnālis "for night use," from Latin nocturnus "of or occurring at night" (from noct-, nox night entry 1 + -urnus, temporal suffix, as in diurnus "of the day") + -ālis -al entry 1 — more at journal

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Time Traveler for nocturnal

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The first known use of nocturnal was in the 15th century

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Statistics for nocturnal

Last Updated

14 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Nocturnal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for nocturnal


How to pronounce nocturnal (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of nocturnal

: active mainly during the night
formal : happening at night


noc·​tur·​nal | \ näk-ˈtər-nᵊl How to pronounce nocturnal (audio) \

Kids Definition of nocturnal

1 : happening at night a nocturnal journey
2 : active at night nocturnal insects


noc·​tur·​nal | \ näk-ˈtərn-ᵊl How to pronounce nocturnal (audio) \

Medical Definition of nocturnal

1 : of, relating to, or occurring at night nocturnal myoclonus
2 : characterized by nocturnal activity a nocturnal form of filariasis

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