Let me preface this by saying that I am trying to come up with an interesting-sounding name for gamedev purposes. I'm looking for a potentially imaginary word that can be given a logical definition.

"Heliophyte" is a word that seems to be the combination of the prefix "helio" (meaning sun) and "phyte" (meaning seed or plant), and is defined as (according to dictionary.com) a plant that grows best in sunlight. While browsing this list I discovered the prefix "noct" (meaning night), which I attempted to swap with the prefix from "heliophyte" to form a word with the opposite meaning: "noctophyte" (plant that grows best in the night). I'm not really sure where I got the 'o' from, it just sounds better than inserting another vowel such as 'i' or 'e' (I'm assuming you would need to add a vowel since "noct" ends in a consonant). Google returns zero results for "noctophyte", so it seems the word does not exist.

I.e. "A sunflower can be classified as a type of heliophyte." "A moon flower can be classified as a type of noctophyte." (I have no idea if that is factually correct)

[I chose the English Language & Usage forum because I'm more interested in the construction/creation of such a word than the biological classification/equivalent.]

Is there a word similar to what I am looking for? If not, could "noctophyte" be a grammatically correct, imaginary term?

  • 1
    If it's a word, Google will almost certainly find it. And you can tell from the contexts where it's found whether it's a "real" word, or just someone mucking around, or perhaps a misspelling.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 2:22

2 Answers 2


If you google nyctophyte you'll see that at least one other person (here) has used this term to describe flowers that thrive in darkness (for example, underground in caves).

But the neologism noctophyte works too since "nocto-" is an acceptable prefix meaning night (here). Although see the caveats of @sumelic in the comments below.

  • 1
    Aw, I just upvoted you and then you made an edit I disagree with! Nyctophyte is better than noctophyte because noct- is a Latin root, and besides the fact that noctophyte would be a mixed word (which isn't a big deal in itself, there are a lot of those) Latin roots normally get the linking vowel -i- rather than -o- (you can see it in noctilucent). I'm sure nocto- has been used, but it doesn't look right to me. This is still a good answer; I just felt compelled to leave this pedantic comment.
    – herisson
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 2:29
  • @sumelic, good points. I made an edit to point to them. The only word I could find with "nocto" is noctograph, some kind of instrument used by the blind invented circa 1800. Probably the name was coined for the occasion. Shame they didn't have EL&U back then!
    – DyingIsFun
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 2:46

Silenus's suggestion of nyctophyte is very good. I was looking to see if there are any alternatives, and found the following words:

scotophyte (from Greek skotos "darkness"):

a plant living in darkness

(English Word Information)

sciophyte, also spelled sciaphyte, skiophyte (from Greek skia "shadow, shade"; according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the variation between -a- and -o- in the combining form dates back to Greek):

Any plant that tolerates or thrives in a low light level (shade)


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.