1 : to close and open quickly : to shut one eye briefly : wink
2 : to close and open the eyelids
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.
"Dermaq's third eyelids nictitated over his corneas as though to wash away the image, and momentarily he looked away, then back at his superior." — Charles L. Harness, Firebird, 1981
"The hump shifted, raised a hairless head of chitinous scales. Almond eyes of burning gold nictitated to life. A broad chest of angular plates swelled with breath." — Ian C. Esslemont, Night of Knives, 2004
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Word Family Quiz
Fill in the blanks to create a verb that is derived from a relative of Latin nictare and that means "to secretly help someone do something dishonest or illegal": c _ n _ _ ve.VIEW THE ANSWER
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