from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Any of the three canonical divisions of the office of matins.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The night office of the Christian Liturgy of the Hours, such as is performed in christian monasteries.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. An office of devotion, or act of religious service, by night.
  • n. One of the portions into which the Psalter was divided, each consisting of nine psalms, designed to be used at a night service.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Of the night; nightly.
  • n. In the early Christian ch., one of several services recited at midnight or between midnight and dawn, and consisting chiefly of psalms and prayers.
  • n. The part of the psalter used at nocturns, or the division used at each nocturn.
  • n. Same as nocturne, 1.
  • n. An organism whose color is different at night from what it is in the daytime. Also nocturne.
  • To be different in color at night from what it is in the daytime; be a nocturn. Also nocturne.


Middle English nocturne, from Medieval Latin nocturna, from Latin, feminine of nocturnus, of the night; see nocturnal.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)



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  • Historically, Nocturn is a very old term applied to night Offices and, since the Middle Ages, to divisions in the canonical hour of Matins.

    February 18, 2008