Word of the Day


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the time in the evening when the sky is beginning to get dark

Origin and usage

Twilight is formed from the Old English ‘twi-‘ and the noun ‘light’. Twi- means ‘two’ and it is not entirely clear what the connection is between this meaning and a word that refers to the period between sunset and full darkness. Twilight was first used in English in the early 15th century.


The winter solstice, which falls on 21 December in the northern hemisphere, marks the point when the days reach their minimum length before starting to slowly draw out again as the year turns. On the shortest day sunset occurs  shortly before 4pm in the south of England, although because of the way timekeeping methods work this is not actually the earliest sunset of the year, which falls a few days earlier. Although the term twilight
refers strictly speaking to the period when the sun is just below the horizon at both ends of the day, in common parlance the word is usually understood to refer to the evening. Of course for many people these days, twilight has another meaning, referring to the books and films about vampires that sprang from the imagination of Stephenie Meyer. Some of the success of the Twilight series can perhaps be atttributed to our mixed feelings about the period of the day when light disappears and darkness takes over.


“For age is opportunity no less Than youth itself, though in another dress, And as the evening twilight fades away The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.”
(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

Related words

dusk, gloaming, nightfall

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary

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