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[som-nam-byuh-liz-uh m, suh m-] /sɒmˈnæm byəˌlɪz əm, səm-/
Origin of somnambulism
1790-1800; < New Latin somnambulismus, equivalent to somn(us) sleep + ambul(āre) to walk + -ismus -ism
Related forms
somnambulist, noun
somnambulistic, adjective
semisomnambulistic, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for somnambulist
Historical Examples
  • For the most recent mile he had been, practically, a somnambulist.

    Fair Harbor

    Joseph Crosby Lincoln
  • You pretend to be a somnambulist in order to carry out your ends.

    The Ivory Snuff Box Arnold Fredericks
  • "Like a—somnambulist," answered Hugh, choosing the word for its intensity.

    David Elginbrod George MacDonald
  • I would sooner have faced a dozen ghosts than a somnambulist.

    Tom, Dick and Harry Talbot Baines Reed
  • But his furtive movements had not the serene impassibility of the somnambulist.

  • He returned to the front of the house, shambling like a somnambulist.

    The Day Time Stopped Moving Bradner Buckner
  • He approached but did not touch her, for he had heard that it was dangerous to awaken a somnambulist.

    The Invader Margaret L. Woods
  • Her eyes, dark with bewilderment, sought his blankly like those of a somnambulist.

    The Secret Witness George Gibbs
  • And yet she knew where they were; she knew, too, that it is dangerous to disturb a somnambulist by calling to him.

    The Goose Man Jacob Wassermann
  • And in the street she walked like a somnambulist, with wide eyes, straight on.

    The Whirlpool George Gissing
British Dictionary definitions for somnambulist


a condition that is characterized by walking while asleep or in a hypnotic trance Also called noctambulism
Derived Forms
somnambulist, noun
somnambulistic, adjective
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for somnambulist



1786, "walking in one's sleep or under hypnosis," from French somnambulisme, from Modern Latin somnambulus "sleepwalker," from Latin somnus "sleep" (see Somnus) + ambulare "to walk" (see amble (v.)).

Originally brought into use during the excitement over "animal magnetism;" it won out over noctambulation. A stack of related words came into use early 19c., e.g. somnambule "sleepwalker" (1837, from French somnambule, 1690s), earlier somnambulator (1803); as adjectives, somnambulary (1827), somnambular (1820).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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somnambulist in Medicine

somnambulism som·nam·bu·lism (sŏm-nām'byə-lĭz'əm)
See sleepwalking.

som·nam'bu·lis'tic adj.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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