Printable Version
Pronunciation: nik-thee-mêr-rahn Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 24-hour day, 24-hour period across daylight and nighttime hours.

Notes: The Russians have an everyday word for this idea, sutki, as opposed to den' "day", referring only to the daylight hours. English, however, doesn't. We can call the 24-hour day a solar day or a 24-hour period, but either is clumsy. The adjective is nychthemeral, without the final -on. The plural of this word would have to be nychthemera, though I haven't been able to find an instance of it.

In Play: Wouldn't it be nice to have a word shorter than today's? "Could I have this back in a nychthemeron?" We can't say: "Can't you shine my shoes any faster? I don't have a nychthemeron!" Four syllables? "I don't have all day," is shorter.

Word History: Today's Good Word was snitched as is from Greek. It is made up of nykti- the combining form of nyx "night" + 'emera "day" + -on, a noun suffix. Nyx goes back to PIE nekwt-/nokwt- "night", which shows up in German Nacht, English night, Russian noch', and Latin nox—all meaning "night". The PIE word was probably based on a verb neg- "to become dark", underlying words like negative. Not much is known about the origin of 'emera. It seems to have come from PIE amer- "day", but the granddad of all PIE etymology, Pokorny's Etymologisches Wörterbuch, only reports the Greek word. (Jeremy Busch, Grand Panjandrum of the Alpha Agora, must spend nychthemera reading to find such arcanely beautiful Good Word's like today's.)

Dr. Goodword,

P.S. - Register for the Daily Good Word E-Mail! - You can get our daily Good Word sent directly to you via e-mail in either HTML or Text format. Go to our Registration Page to sign up today!