from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A painting of a night scene.
  • noun An instrumental composition of a pensive, dreamy mood, especially one for the piano.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun In painting, a night-piece; a painting exhibiting some of the characteristic effects of night-light.
  • noun In music, a composition, properly instrumental, which is intended to embody the dreamy sentiments appropriate to the evening or the night; a pensive and sentimental melody; a reverie; a serenade. The style of composition and the term are peculiar to the romantic school. Also notturno.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun (Mus.) A night piece, or serenade. The name is now used for a certain graceful and expressive form of instrumental composition, as the nocturne for orchestra in Mendelsohn's “Midsummer-Night's Dream” music.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun A work of art relating or dedicated to the night.
  • noun A dreamlike or pensive composition (usually for the piano).

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun a pensive lyrical piece of music (especially for the piano)


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[French, from Old French, nocturnal, from Latin nocturnus; see nocturnal.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

French nocturne ("nocturnal"), from Latin nocturnus


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  • Wyn Davies conducts with a panache that locates Lehár's subtler colours – the violin nocturne that precedes the final act is every bit as exquisite as the rambunctious waltz.

    The Merry Widow – review Alfred Hickling 2010

  • A nocturne is a piece of music inspired by, or evocative of, the night ...

    Nocturnes: Summary and book reviews of Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro. 2009

  • J Hoberman in the Voice on Tsai Ming-liang's I Don't Want to Sleep Alone, now screening at the IFC Center through Tuesday: Albeit closer to ballet than drama, this urban nocturne is one of Tsai's most beautiful and naturalistic films - at least in terms of its rich, humid, almost viscous ambience.

    GreenCine Daily: I Don't Want to Sleep Alone. 2007

  • The name nocturne was invented by John Field, who wrote twelve pieces with this title (the remaining ones of the twenty usually printed were named by the publishers) which are, in effect, sonnets; little lyric pieces, of greater or less depth, having the general type of a song without words, but preferably of a melancholy or tender character, and the form of a melody with accompaniment.

    The Masters and their Music A series of illustrative programs with biographical, esthetical, and critical annotations 1874

  • When I’m inspired, whether it’s from the flaming crimson leaves that are beginning to explode across the horizon, a Chopin nocturne, or a well crafted novel, I feel a sense of excitement, an electrical surge of creative energy which seems other-worldly.

    Encyclopedia of Me Monday: I is for… 2007

  • A good Chopin CD is Jean Yves Thibaudet's "The Chopin I Love"; there's quite a bit on that CD, including the E-flat major nocturne, which is my absolute favorite.

    Music to read by: the suggestions. Ann Althouse 2005

  • There is unhealthy power in this nocturne, which is seldom interpreted with sinister subtlety.

    Chopin : the Man and His Music James Huneker 1890

  • The picture called the nocturne in blue and silver, was now produced in Court.

    The Gentle Art of Making Enemies James McNeill Whistler 1868

  • The question is whether either is a nocturne, which is to say a picture whose subject is the night.

    The Independent - Frontpage RSS Feed 2009

  • It is like a "nocturne" written by a musician who has wandered through all the cities of Europe with a company of beggar-players, playing masques of death to the occupants of all the cemeteries.

    Suspended Judgments Essays on Books and Sensations John Cowper Powys 1917


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  • The opposite of aubade.

    December 9, 2006

  • The hands on the clock turn, but don't sing a nocturne just yet.

    May 22, 2007