Share This Spectacular Vernacular
Don’t you hate it when you are trying to get a few more minutes of sleep before starting your day, but some loud, matutinal bird shrieks outside your window? Sure, you could call it crepuscular, but don’t confuse it with vespertine.
Wait. What? Three vocabulary words in one. What a bargain.
For those of you I haven’t scared away, let’s pick those apart.
Matutinal refers to a morning creature, particularly one that is active prior to dawn. As someone who gets up before 5 every day, I can say I understand this one the best. It traces its origin back to Mātūta, the Roman Goddess of Dawn.
The opposite of that is vespertine, which means evening. Think of vesper (the evening star) or vespers (evening prayers). It also traces its root back through Latin and Greek and can be found in some form in many languages.
As for crepuscular, that refers to both dawn and dusk, so both matutinal and verpertine are subsets of crepuscular. The etymology is murkier because it seemed to mean both twilight and obscure, though it’s unclear which is the original meaning.
Of course, if I kept going, I could discuss nocturnal (night) and diurnal (day), but you probably already have enough to be the hit of the next cocktail party you attend.