When people speak about twilight, they usually think of it as an eerie time, the popular novels named after the term, and the Twilight Zone television series. However, most people do not know what “twilight” is on a factual basis, its origins in terms of linguistics, and its various cultural references. In order to educate the general public about twilight, the following paragraphs will be dedicated to informing about this special term.
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There are only two definitions of “twilight” according to Oxford Dictionaries. The first is a mass noun as, “the faint light or the period of time at the end of the day after the sun has gone down” (Oxford Dictionaries). A separate definition of the mass noun is, “The period of the evening when twilight is visible, between daylight and darkness” (Oxford Dictionaries). In singular form as a modifier, the terms means, “A period or state of obscurity, ambiguity, or gradual decline” (Oxford Dictionaries). An example of this usage would be, “I am in the twilight of my years” which is a common expression. As you can see, these types of definitions are more scientific than anything else.
But where did this word come from? In English, the term “twilight” derives from the Old English word “twēonelēoht.” In this form, it had the same meaning as in Modern English, however. This strange-looking word traveled to Middle English as “twilight” and “twyelyghte.” The spelling transformed over time in Middle English and retained its meaning from Old English. In Modern English, “twi” refers to “double” or “half.” So, “twilight” literally means “second light” or “half light” (Wiktionary). According to Wiktionary, “twilight” is cognate “to Scots twa licht, twylicht, twielicht (“twilight”), Low German twilecht, twelecht (“twilight”), Dutch tweelicht (“twilight, dusk”), German Zwielicht (“twilight, dusk”)” (Wiktionary). So, even though we think this a special word in English, it is strongly connected to several other languages.
To add, there are several types of twilight according to science. There is civil twilight, nautical twilight, and astronomical twilight. Essentially, these categories are based on degrees of the sun below the horizon: civil twilight is 6 degrees below the horizon, nautical twilight is 12 degrees below the horizon, and astronomical twilight is 18 degrees below the horizon (Timeanddate.com).
As we mentioned, “twilight” is connected to various cultural phenomena. In poetry, for instance, the word “twilight” is used often to imply something that is between waking or sleeping, alive or dead, and such. In the same sense, it is commonly employed in songs as well. Also, in terms of the media, “The Twilight Zone” is a classic American television series that explored that oddities of reality in parallel universes or happenings that might occur behind our backs. In this context, “twilight” is known more as something unknown and eerie. On the other hand, though critics despise it, the “Twilight” series (or saga, if you want to be fancy) written by American author Stephenie Meyer has its place in mass media. It is about a clan of relatively peaceful vampires, and how one of its members falls in love with a female human, despite wanting to feed on her at all times. The story continues with a love triangle involving a werewolf, and various battles, without much of a plot. Anyways, the term “twilight” in this respect might be reflective of the condition of the vampire who loves his human mate, despite wanting to do the worst to her. It is this in-between nature that draws parallels with the natural act of twilight. Unfortunately, this time-honored term has been tainted by this “saga,” as people naturally connect the word to this awful product of popular fiction (and even film series). But thankfully because of the lasting impact of “The Twilight Zone,” the term has not been completely soiled culturally.
The word “twilight” was a strangely spelled Old English word (at least by our current standards) and moved onto Middle English, and finally into Modern English with the same meaning throughout its history. One can get quite scientific about its meaning, as there are three different types of twilight in regard to the degree of the sun below the horizon. Also, “twilight” is reflected in poetry widely, was featured as an aesthetic in the television series “The Twilight Zone,” and was even sullied by the “Twilight” book series. Who knows what is next for “twilight” linguistically and culturally.
“Twilight | Definition of Twilight in English by Oxford Dictionaries.” Oxford Dictionaries | English, Oxford Dictionaries, en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/twilight.
“Twilight.” Wiktionary, en.wiktionary.org/wiki/twilight.
“What Is Nautical Twilight?” Timeanddate.com, www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/nautical-twilight.html.
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