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twilight, n.

Pronunciation:  /ˈtwaɪlaɪt/
Forms:  ME twyliȝt, -lyghte, twye lyghte, 15 twie light, twylyght, Sc. twa licht, lycht, 15–17 twylight, 15– twilight; also 15–17 with hyphen.(Show Less)
Etymology:  Middle English, < twi- comb. form   + light n.1, corresponding to West Frisian twieljocht  , Dutch tweelicht   (from 16th cent.), Low German twilecht  , German zwielicht  . The rare form twilighting n.   is recorded a little earlier. The exact force of twi- here is doubtful: compare in same sense Middle High German zwischenliecht ‘'tweenlight’, and Low German twêdustern, twêdunkern, lit. ‘twi-dark’.
 1. The light diffused by the reflection of the sun's rays from the atmosphere before sunrise, and after sunset; the period during which this prevails between daylight and darkness.

 a. Generally.

c1440   Promptorium Parvulorum 505/1   Twylyghte, be-twyx þe day and þe nyghte, or nyghte and þe day, hesperus.
1555   R. Eden tr. Peter Martyr of Angleria Decades of Newe Worlde i. vi. f. 32,   At the beginnynge of the euenyng twilight..in the morninge twylight.
a1600   R. Hooker Two Serm. (1614) 54   He must haue darknes for a vision, hee must stumble at noone daies, as at the twi-light.
1617   F. Moryson Itinerary i. 113   It [the grotto of Posilippo] hath no light in the middest, but like twilight,..in the twilight of morning and euening passengers vse torches.
1661   R. Boyle Some Consider. Style of Script. (1675) 99   Faith and the Twilight seeming to agree in this Property, that a mixture of Darkness is requisite to both.
1698   J. Fryer New Acct. E.-India & Persia 55   There is little or no Twilight, as there is nearer the Poles.
1796   J. Morse Amer. Universal Geogr. (new ed.) I. 52   The twilight is that faint light which opens the morning by little and little in the east, before the sun rises; and gradually shuts in the evening in the west, after the sun is set.
1815   J. Smith Panorama Sci. & Art I. 544   The atmosphere reflecting and refracting the sun's light, forms a twilight at the distance of even 18 degrees.

c1440—1815(Hide quotations)


 b. spec. Most commonly applied to the evening twilight, from sunset to dark night.   second twilight n. see quot. 1883.

1412–20   Lydgate tr. Hist. Troy i. 2733   In þe twyliȝt whan þe day gan fade.
1517   S. Hawes Pastime of Pleasure ii. 14   In the fayre twylight, I sate me downe for to rest me all nyght.
1588   A. King tr. P. Canisius Cathechisme or Schort Instr. i vij,   Ye quantitie of ye day brake and twa licht (for ye ane is æquall to ye vther) of euerie day.
1667   Milton Paradise Lost iv. 598   Now came still Eevning on, and Twilight gray Had in her sober Liverie all things clad.
1700   Dryden Chaucer's Cock & Fox in Fables 231   When the Sun was down, They just arriv'd by twilight at a Town.
1793–6   S. T. Coleridge Lines Autumnal Evening 63   When Twilight stole across the fading vale.
1836   W. Irving Astoria III. xlviii. 99   A chasm that looked dark and frightful in the gathering twilight.
1883   Chambers's Encycl. IX. 604/1   A curious phenomenon, known as the afterglow, or second twilight, often seen in the Nubian desert, is referred by Sir John Herschel to a second reflection of solar light in the atmosphere.

1412–20—1883(Hide quotations)


 c. Morning twilight, which lasts from daybreak to sunrise.

c1440   Promptorium Parvulorum 505/1   Twye lyghte, be-fore the day, diluculum.
1609   S. Daniel Civile Wares (rev. ed.) viii. xiv. 207   Vpon the twi-light of that day..ere they had full light.
1617   F. Moryson Itinerary i. 240   By twilight of the morning we set sayle from Joppa.
1709   G. Stanhope Paraphr. Epist. & Gospels IV. 349   The Law and the Prophets, like the Glimmerings of the Twi-light, dawned first.
1744   J. Thomson Summer in Seasons (new ed.) 81   At once the bright-effulgent Sun, Rising direct, swift chases from the Sky The short-liv'd Twilight.
1845   R. Browning How they brought Good News in Bells & Pomegranates VII. iii. 3   'Twas moonset at starting; but while we drew near Lokeren, the cocks crew and twilight dawned clear.
1863   ‘G. Eliot’ Romola I. ii. 41   [She] was weary after her labour in the morning twilight.

c1440—1863(Hide quotations)


 2. transf. A dim light resembling twilight; partial illumination.

1667   Milton Paradise Lost i. 597   As when the Sun..In dim Eclips disastrous twilight sheds.
1709   R. Steele Tatler No. 8. ⁋6   A Sable Cloud over-shadowed the whole Land... A Twilight began by Degrees to enlighten the Hemisphere.
1768   L. Sterne Sentimental Journey II. 30,   I..look'd through the twilight of his grated door.
1820   Keats Eve of St. Agnes in Lamia & Other Poems 97   The faded moon Made a dim, silver twilight.
1858   N. Hawthorne French & Ital. Note-bks. I. 264   The church..had a grand effect in its tinted twilight.
1872   W. Black Strange Adventures Phaeton xxx,   The soft green twilight of an avenue of trees.

1667—1872(Hide quotations)

 3. fig.

 a. An intermediate condition or period; a condition before or after full development. twilight of the gods  [translation of Icelandic ragna rökkr, altered from the original ragna rök, the history or judgement of the gods] , in Scandinavian Mythol. the destruction of the gods and of the world in conflict with the powers of evil; also transf. Cf. Götterdämmerung n., Ragnarök n.

1609   Shakespeare Sonnets lxxiii. sig. E4,   In me thou seest the twi-light of such day, As after Sun-set fadeth in the West.
1679   C. Ness Distinct Disc. Antichrist 144   As if the twilight of the church in her minority and nonage..exceeded the noon-day of the gospel-church.
1682   Dryden Religio Laici Pref. sig. a3,   The Twilight of Revelation, after the Sun of it was set in the Race of Noah.
1768   T. Gray Descent of Odin in Poems 94 (note)    Lok is the evil Being, who continues in chains till the Twilight of the Gods approaches.
1821   Byron Marino Faliero (2nd issue) i. ii. 21   At my hour Of twilight little light of life remains.
1821   Scott Kenilworth I. xii. 293   He is ever in a sort of twilight, that is neither sleeping nor waking.
1877   W. Sparrow Serm. xix. 251   Voltaire was..in the habit of saying that he lived in the twilight of Christianity; meaning thereby, that its sun would soon go down.
1888   R. Garnett (title)    The twilight of the gods and other tales.
1944   Sun (Baltimore) 22 July 2/1   The German nation is split wide open... The twilight of the gods has begun.
1979   A. R. Peacocke Creation & World of Sci. ii. 55   Under the pressure of experimental facts and the bold and convincing analyses of Planck and Einstein, there was, as Karl Heim puts it, a ‘twilight of the gods’ of absolute space, time, object, and determinism.

1609—1979(Hide quotations)


 b. esp. in reference to imperfect mental illumination or perception.

1610   P. Holland tr. W. Camden Brit. ii. 89,   I am out of all hope in so great darknesse to discover any twy-light of the truth.
1648   R. Boyle Seraphic Love (1700) 167   The dim Twilight of Human Intellects in this Life.
1722   W. Wollaston Relig. of Nature iii. 54   Thus blind ignorance was succeeded by a twilight of ‘Sense’.
1838   W. H. Prescott Hist. Reign Ferdinand & Isabella III. ii. xiv. 135   A shadowy twilight of romance enveloped every object.
1869   H. F. Tozer Res. Highlands of Turkey II. 307   The minor deities..live in a dim twilight of popular belief.

1610—1869(Hide quotations)


 a. Of, pertaining to, or resembling twilight; seen or done in the twilight. twilight arc (also twilight arch), twilight curve, the outline of the earth's shadow, which rises in the east as the sun sets, forming an arch which divides the twilight or shaded portion of the sky from that which is lighted by the direct rays of the sun. twilight glow, a diffuse glow in the sky at twilight; spec. in Meteorol., that caused by spectroscopic emission in the upper atmosphere from atoms excited by solar radiation. twilight parallel, the small circle of the celestial sphere, parallel to and 18 degrees below the horizon, at the sun's crossing which evening twilight ceases or morning twilight begins (Webster, 1911). twilight vision, vision in which colours are hardly perceptible owing to the dimness of the light; scotopic vision.

1645   Milton Arcades in Poems 56   Nymphs and Shepherds..Trip no more in twilight ranks.
1757   T. Gray Ode I ii. ii, in Odes 8   The Muse has broke the twilight-gloom.
1764   W. Falconer Shipwreck (new ed.) i. 34   Now Morn..advanc'd..Whitening with orient beam the twilight sky.
1794   A. Radcliffe Myst. of Udolpho III. ix. 286   She watched twilight shade, and darkness veil the scene.
1812   Byron Childe Harold: Cantos I & II ii. lix. 90   When the lingering twilight hour was past.
1819   Byron Don Juan: Canto II clxxxviii. 213   The twilight glow, which momently grew less.
1837   E. Bulwer-Lytton Ernest Maltravers I. i. viii. 82   That twilight shower had given a racy and vigorous sweetness to the air.
1855   A. Bain Senses & Intellect ii. ii. 460   There is a point of twilight dimness when objects begin to be doubtful.
1856   E. K. Kane Arctic Explor. I. xv. 169   It is either all day here, or all night, or a twilight mixture of both.
1921   R. S. Woodworth Psychol. (1922) x. 226   Dim-light vision, or twilight vision as it is sometimes called, is rod vision and not cone vision.
1924   J. P. C. Southall tr. W. Nagel in H. von Helmholtz's Treat. Physiol. Optics II. 345   The so-called Dämmerungssehen (or twilight vision, scotopia), when the eye is dark-adapted and the light stimulus is weak.
1950   Sci. News 15 17   It has been suspected for many years that the coloured pigment ‘visual purple’, found in the retinas of such animals as frogs, is associated with twilight vision. This supposition has recently become a certainty.
1955   Sci. Amer. Sept. 150/3   There is also a twilight glow, about 100 times as intense as the nightglow but not detectable by the eye because of the brighter sky.
1972   Sci. Amer. Jan. 80/3   The spectrum of the twilightglow differs from the nightglow spectrum in that certain features disappear shortly after the end of twilight and others are markedly stronger in twilight than they are during the night.
1980   F. H. Ludlam Clouds & Storms iv. 77/1   The twilight glow continues to fade and its upper border to descend more rapidly than the sun, but it does not disappear below the horizon until the sun's depression exceeds about 16°, and astronomical twilight ends.

1645—1980(Hide quotations)


 b. fig. Having an intermediate character.

a1732   T. Boston Memoirs (1776) vii. 139   The two days before I had a twilight frame; it being neither day nor night with me.
1825   C. Waterton Wanderings in S. Amer. iii. i. 211   A kind of twilight state of health, neither ill nor..well.

a1732—1825(Hide quotations)


 c. Lighted as by twilight; dim, obscure, shadowy; also fig. of early times.

1645   Milton On Christ's Nativity: Hymn xx, in Poems 10   The Nimphs in twilight shade of tangled thickets mourn.
1645   Milton Il Penseroso in Poems 42   Arched walks of twilight groves, And shadows brown..Of Pine.
1810   Scott Lady of Lake vi. 289   In twilight copse the glow-worm lights her spark.
1863   N. Hawthorne Our Old Home I. 101   Warwick,..founded by King Cymbeline in the twilight ages.
1873   W. Black Princess of Thule viii. 135   Their shouts occasionally called up from some dim twilight recess—far in among the perilous rocks.

1645—1873(Hide quotations)


 d. fig. Of the nature of or pertaining to imperfect mental light.

a1677   I. Barrow Serm. in Wks. (1686) III. 531   Philosophy may yield some twilight glimmerings thereof.
1774   J. W. Fletcher Disc. App., in First Pt. Equal Check 91   Our short-sightedness and twilight knowledge do not alter the nature of things.
1818   Scott Heart of Mid-Lothian v, in Tales of my Landlord 2nd Ser. III. 125   A doubtful, uncertain, and twilight sort of rationality.

a1677—1818(Hide quotations)



 C1. In combination with participle or adj.

  twilight-enfolded adj.

1891   C. T. C. James Romantic Rigmarole 88   Looking out at the soft twilight-enfolded square.

1891—1891(Hide quotations)


  twilight-hidden adj.

a1882   D. G. Rossetti House of Life iv,   Thy twilight-hidden glimmering visage lies.

a1882—a1882(Hide quotations)


  twilight-like adj.

1848   P. J. Bailey Festus (ed. 3) 202   A state Of twilight-like existence.

1848—1848(Hide quotations)


  twilight-loving adj.

1747   T. Warton Pleasures of Melancholy 21   The twilight-loving bat.

1747—1747(Hide quotations)


  twilight-seeming adj.

1821   Scott Kenilworth I. vi. 122   Two silver lamps..diffused a..twilight-seeming shimmer.

1821—1821(Hide quotations)


  twilight-tinctured adj.

1777   T. Warton Ode Hamlet 5   Morning's twilight-tinctur'd beam.

1777—1777(Hide quotations)

 C2. Special Combs.

  twilight area   n. = twilight zone n. (a).

1960   Daily Tel. 18 June 8/3   Where debate begins and should be encouraged is over the question whether redevelopment of what Sir Keith Joseph called the ‘twilight areas’ must wait entirely on these other two housing operations.
a1974   R. Crossman Diaries (1975) I. 44   A Labour Minister should impose central leadership, large-scale state intervention, in these blighted areas of cities, the twilight areas, which were once genteelly respectable and are now rotting away.

1960—a1974(Hide quotations)


  twilight home   n.  (a) a home (see home n.1 7) for old people or animals;  (b) = twilight house n.

1934   Webster's New Internat. Dict. Eng. Lang.   Twilight home, a charitable institution providing a home for aged people. Colloq., Australia.
1966   ‘K. A. Saddler’ Gilt Edge v. 74   Twilight homes for retired beach donkeys.
1968   Guardian 5 Apr. 1/6   A plan to modernise Britain's four million twilight homes has been agreed by the Cabinet.
1978   I. Murdoch Sea 493   [I] arranged for her mother to be packed off to a comfortable and expensive ‘twilight home’.

1934—1978(Hide quotations)


  twilight house   n. a house in a twilight zone (see twilight zone n. (a)).

1971   New Society 1 July 20/2   There were 600,000 ‘slums’ and about two million ‘twilight’ houses.

1971—1971(Hide quotations)


  twilight housing   n.

1971   New Society 1 July 20/2   A current comparison of slum and twilight housing.
1971   Mod. Law Rev. 31 vi. 698   He has sections on..houses in disrepair, on planning blight and on twilight housing areas.

1971—1971(Hide quotations)


  twilight night   n. Baseball = twi-night n.

1949   P. Cummings Dict. Sports 478/1   Twilight-night. Baseball. A double-header, the first game played late in the afternoon, the second in the evening under lights.
1953   Sun (Baltimore) 28 Oct. ( b ed.) 21/2   There can be none of those frisky twilight-night double headers.

1949—1953(Hide quotations)


  twilight shift   n. a shift worked between the day shift and the night shift.

1970   ‘C. Aird’ Late Phoenix x. 115   He didn't come home last night after the twilight shift at his factory.
1977   Wandsworth Borough News 7 Oct. 18/2 (advt.)    Laundry workers evening shift, 5.30–9.30 p.m. We require a number of part-time workers for clean and simple work on our twilight shift, Monday–Friday.

1970—1977(Hide quotations)


  twilight sleep   n.  [translating German dämmerschlaf (C. J. Gauss, c1905)] a state of amnesia and partial analgesia induced by the administration of morphine and scopolamine (hyoscine), esp. to lessen the pains of childbirth.

1912   F. Hewitt Anæsthetics & Admin. (ed. 4) ix. 278   As a matter of actual experience in hospital practice by no means all patients achieve the state of dammerschlaf, or ‘twilight sleep’, which foreign authors advocate.
1922   J. Joyce Ulysses ii. viii. [Lestrygonians] 154   Twilightsleep idea: queen Victoria was given that.
1971   D. D. Moir Pain Relief in Labour i. 5   Twilight sleep is seldom used today because it causes respiratory depression in the new-born and tends to cause delirium and restlessness in the mother.
1981   J. Gardner Licence Renewed xiv. 161   A nice mix—Scopolamine with morphine: twilight sleep, like having a baby.

1912—1981(Hide quotations)


  twilight world   n.  (a) a shadowy region;  (b) a world characterized by uncertainty, obscurity, or decline;  (c) the world which comes to life after sunset, characterized by merry-making or criminal activities.

1887   C. Bowen tr. Virgil Æneid iv. 25   Down to the twilight world and the gloom where the buried rest.
1954   A. Koestler Invisible Writing xxvi. 281,   I mention this episode as one example of the ambiguities of the twilight world in which we lived.
1963   Times 8 May 6/7   But in this unhappy twilight world in which we live in a state of truce—neither peace nor war.
1970   C. Major Dict. Afro-Amer. Slang 117   Twilight world, the world of all-night parties.
1977   D. Seaman Committee 116   The twilight world of the mentally ill.
1977   ‘J. D. White’ Salzburg Affair v. 45   The twilight world that exists in every city..the doctor who will tend a bullet wound, the hotel that will provide accommodation without papers.

1887—1977(Hide quotations)


  twilight zone   n.  (a) spec. an urban area in which housing is becoming decrepit;  (b) gen. an indistinct boundary area combining some of the characteristics of the two areas between which it falls (cf. sense 4b);  (c) occas., a dimly illuminated region.

1909   Arena Mar. 273/2   Such organization will leave no ‘twilight zone’, no ‘no man's land’, for railway corporation dodgers.
1918   Policeman's Monthly June 30/1   There still remain twilight zones in most centers of population.
1920   J. G. Frederick Great Game of Business iii. 23   Be aware that the test of real ‘honesty’ comes in the ‘twilight zone’ between what is quite clearly honest and dishonest.
1938   Jrnl. Royal Aeronaut. Soc. 42 492   The twilight zone extends to about 20° either side of the equi~signal zone centre.
1960   Daily Tel. 20 June 17/6   There are many towns with ‘twilight zones’ of shabby and out~dated houses.
1969   Times 29 Jan. 10/7   It lives between 300 and 500 metres below the surface of the ocean, in the region to which light penetrates with such difficulty that it may be considered as a kind of twilight zone.
1981   Washington Post 26 Apr. a1/1   Several key officials charged with formulating foreign policy remain in a bureaucratic twilight zone almost 100 days after Reagan's inauguration.

1909—1981(Hide quotations)




  ˈtwilight   v. (trans.) to light imperfectly or dimly.

1819   Keats Song of Four Fairies in R. M. Milnes Life, Lett. & Lit. Remains J. Keats (1848) II. 275   And the beams of still Vesper..Are shed thro' the rain..And twilight your floating bowers.
1866   W. D. Howells Venetian Life 149   Cavernous recesses..twilighted by twinkling altar-lamps.
1880   P. Greg Errant I. xvi. 245   A room..lighted or rather twilighted by a window looking out on a back court.

1819—1880(Hide quotations)


  ˈtwilighted adj. partly illuminated; = twilit adj.

1865   A. Smith Summer in Skye I. 314   A twilighted shepherd at watch.
1868   A. D. Whitney Patience Strong's Outings xvi,   Warm twilighted evenings.
1886   F. Caddy Footsteps Jeanne D'Arc 226   Centuries, which..we have been until lately accustomed to consider as twilighted ages.

1865—1886(Hide quotations)


  ˈtwilightless adj. having no twilight.

1892   M. Dods Gospel St. John II. 94   The sudden night of the Eastern twilightless sunset had fallen.

1892—1892(Hide quotations)


  ˈtwilighty adj. resembling twilight.

1856   H. Mayhew Upper Rhine 250   The soft twilighty tone of more ancient piles.
1894   E. F. Benson Rubicon I. 69   That grey shawl is very twilighty.

1856—1894(Hide quotations)