Night owls and early birds

Are you a night owl or an early bird?

Maybe you’re not avian at all, but more like a lemur. Ian Tattersal coined the term cathemeral in 1979 to describe an animal whose activity is ‘evenly throughout the 24 h of the daily cycle,’ from the Greek words “κατα” (through) and  ἡμέρα” [hɛːméraː] (the day, read as the 24-hour daily cycle.”

Based on the shapes of their eye sockets some dinosaurs were “adapted to all major types of diel activity (that is, nocturnal, diurnal, and cathemeral),”  Lars Schmitz and Ryosuke Motani reported in the online version of the journal Science 14 April 2011.’ Diel (pronounced like “dill” or “dial”) is from < classical Latin diēs ‘day’ and is a biological term for ‘Lasting for or involving a period of twenty-four hours.’

If you’re a night owl, you’re nocturnal, a word that comes from post-classical Latin nocturnalis ‘of the night’ (5th cent.), liturgical book for night office.

If you’re an early bird, but you fade later in the day, maybe you’re not simply diurnal, ‘active during the day’ from diurnāl-is daily, < diēs day, but possibly matutinal, active in the early morning. The etymology, according to Anu Garg’s Wordsmith Words is “From Late Latin matutinalis, from Latin matutinus (of the morning). Ultimately from Indo-European root ma- (good) that is also the source of words such as mature, matinee, matins, Spanish mañana (tomorrow, morning, future).”

If you come back to life around cocktail time, you may be crepuscular, from Latin crepuscul-um ‘twilight.’

Owl photo by Pieter S. van der Meulen. ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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3 Responses to Night owls and early birds

  1. Pingback: Here today, gone tomorrow « Spanish-English Word Connections

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