• crepuscular •
Pronunciation: krê-pês-kyê-lê(r) • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Pertaining to the crepuscule, dusk, twilight. 2. Dim, indistinct, having limited visibility. 3. (Zoology) Becoming active at twilight or before sunrise, as do bats, certain insects and birds, as well as some housecats.
Notes: While twilight may be more charming, crepuscular is a synonym that will bring a touch of formality and quizzical looks to your conversations. Its pronunciation suggests something crunchy and muscular rather than quietly spectacular. The noun from which this word is derived, crepuscule [kre-pês-kyul] "twilight", is even less appealing. Yet, there it is, a qualified word in English, so we mustn't just let it lay there. If you would like to separate the meanings of today's word, you may use crepusculous in the sense of "dim, indistinct".
In Play: I suppose we can find strength enough in the celestial exhibitions of twilight to fit today's Good Word: "The brilliant crepuscular display along the horizon that evening took even the wind's breath away, leaving us to enjoy our awe in perfect stillness." Do remember that today's word refers to any kind of dusky light, not just twilight: "Given the crepuscular lighting of the restaurant, it is not surprising that Marvin mistook 'ragoût of lamb' for 'rack of lamb'."
Word History: The origin of today's Good Word is itself a bit crepuscular. It comes from Latin crepusculum "evening twilight, dusk" (antonym of diluculum "morning twilight, dawn"). Crepusculum is probably a diminutive noun derived from creper "dark, gloomy". A similar stem appears in crepare "to rattle, rustle, clank", but there is no semantic relation between these two words. At this point twilight becomes historical darkness. (There is nothing crepuscular about our gratitude to Sarah Stowe for suggesting today's fascinating Good Word; that gratitude is as bright and shining as the midday sun.)