Lucifugous, a compound from the Latin luci, ‘light,’ and fugere, ‘to flee,’ means having a dislike of light, particularly from the sun. It’s usually applied to light-fleeing creatures that avoid sunlight, such as bats, cockroaches and fireflies. Another word that has a similar meaning to lucifugous is heliophobia, which refers to the fear of sunlight. Conversely, an abnormal fear of night or darkness is called nyctophobia.
Lucifugous might conjure up negative connotations—Lucifer, bloodthirsty creatures, sins and demons—but scientists discovered that darkness is essential for good health. Research shows that only when it’s really dark can the human body produce a hormone called melatonin, which is a powerful agent in the fight against cancer, dementia and premature aging. This usually happens when we sleep in total darkness.
Researchers also said that the glow created by excessive artificial light at night disrupts the physiology and behavior of nocturnal animals. For example, over-illumination in cities and along the coast causes migrating birds to become disoriented and collide with bridges and skyscrapers. It is estimated that 100 million to 1 billion migrating birds die every year in North America from colliding with buildings. The good news is that we can easily help these birds by shielding the light with reflectors. Office buildings and school systems could also save up to $1 million a year by going dark at night.
If you’re not sure how to use lucifugous in a sentence, here are a few examples:
- There begin to be seen walking the streets, hugging the walls, odd lucifugous creatures such as the tide uncovers when the water withdraws. (André Gide, Justin O’Brien, Journals: 1914-1927) (Free Republic)
- I turned on the light and the lucifugous cockroaches ran for cover.
So as summer approaches, do you think you become more lucifugous by the day? Or are you the kind of person who can’t wait to soak up the sun?
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