• noctivagant •
nahk-ti-vê-gênt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: Wandering or roaming about at night.
Notes: The difference between this word and somnambulate is that a somnambulant person is asleep when he wanders about. Also, somnambulate has an exact synonym, sleepwalk, which today's word does not. Today's word comes from the verb noctivagate. Someone who noctivagates is a nocitivagator so long as he is involved in noctivagation. Be careful to spell this word nocti-v-a-g-ate, not nocti-v-i-g-ate as did a spelling bee participant in the movie "Bad Words".
In Play: This word is generally used to describe the behavior of animals: "When Frieda Gogh's cat disappeared, she assumed that some noctivagant predator had done it in." However, anything that prowls around at night is noctivagating: "Ally Katz is a noctivagant busker, who prowls the streets and squares all night long with her guitar."
Word History: This word is easy to analyze etymologically. It is a Latin compound comprising nox, noctis "night" + vagari "roam, wander, stroll". You are correct if you see the root of noctis in English nocturnal and nocturn. The time of the year when the length of night equals that of the day is called the equinox. The same Proto-Indo-European root went into the making of English night and Russian noch'. The verb vagari came from the Latin noun vagus "wandering", which English borrowed via French as vague. The verb itself, vagari, was borrowed by English for its vagary. It also appears in a Latin word, vagabundus, with a gerundive suffix -bundus. English borrowed this word from French which had adjusted it to vagabond. (Now we should thank Miriam Webster, our noctivagrant word catcher, for recommending to us today's Good Word.")
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