Saturday, February 16, 2013


Roger from Sault Ste Marie asked about the word somnambulistic. It’s the adjective form of the noun somnambulist, which breaks down into the Latin somn-, sleep, and ambul-, to walk. Somn- also shows up in words such as insomnia and somniferous, and ambul- appears in ambulation and ambulance, which was originally a field hospital that followed a moving army.

Four words designate types of walking, though one of them is a nonce word.

  • funambulist: a tightrope performer  [L. fun-, rope]
  • noctambulist: a sleep walker who moves about at night  [L. noct-, night]
  • somnambulist:  a sleep walker  [L. somn-, sleep]
  • vicambulist: one who walks about hoping to be seen and recognized [a nonce word, a word used on one specific occasion or in one specific text or writer's works. L. vicus, street]

Available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

Nook edition

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