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.
  • To be different in color at night from what it is in the daytime; be a nocturn. Also nocturne.
  • n. An organism whose color is different at night from what it is in the daytime. 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