Printable Version
Pronunciation: nik-tayt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, intransitive

Meaning: To wink, to blink.

Notes: Just something in my eye.Today's Good Word is a reduction of the verb nictitate by a process known as 'haplology'. Haplology is the collapse of two identical or very similar adjacent syllables into one. Probably, for instance, is usually reduced to 'probly' when pronounced because of the two contiguous instances of the sound [ahb] in its middle. Nictitate had a [t] and a [tey] side by side—similar enough for haplology. Nictation is the noun. The adjective, nictitant "blinking", was produced by the original verb, nictitate.

In Play: Ladies, here is a good way to handle someone who comes on too strong: "Are you making a pass at me or does your eye nictate involuntarily?" Your vocabulary alone should deter him. Nictation is not limited to eyes, though, "They loved to sit together on a susurrous, moonlit beach and watch the slowly nictating lighthouse across the bay."

Word History: Today's Good Word comes from Latin nictat(us), the past participial stem of nictare "to wink or blink". This word is a cognate with Old High German hnigan "to bow", neigen in Modern German today. Another relative is connive, which comes from Latin connivere "to close the eyes", which somewhere way back was made up of con- "together, with" + nict + ere "to".

Dr. Goodword,

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