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Borrowed from Old French dorveille.


dorveille (uncountable)

  1. (literary) A dreamlike semi-conscious state, such as while falling asleep or waking up, between periods of sleep, or from exhaustion; generally with reference to an altered mental state where there is no distinction between the fantastic and the familiar. Most often used in reference to medieval poetry and literature.
    • 2009, James J. Paxson, The Poetics of Personification, p. 94
      dorveille is a peculiar psychic, physical, and spiritual condition traditionally suffered by the narrator or human protagonist of the allegorical poem. Dorveille can involve the bodily exhaustion that overcomes the narrator at the outset of his text. The classic example is Dante, who, at the opening of Inferno 1, describes himself as pien di sonno – "full of sleep" (line 11). Dorveille can also involve the hypnotic lull and dizziness that overcomes the weary horseman who, as he narrates his poem, suffers from a wandering sense of attention and alertness (French rever).
    • 2008, Emily Francomano Wisdom and Her Lovers in Medieval and Early Modern Hispanic Literature, p. 71
      The poetic voice describes how, sleepless with lovesickness, he goes to the chapel, seeking respite. As he meditates there upon the cause of his "passion", he [...] enters into a state of dorveille and has a vision populated with women
    • 2010, Christine de Pizan, David Hult, Debate of the Romance of the Rose, p. 106
      the narrator is in a dreamlike state midway between sleep and wakefulness, [...] "dorveille", a state that accentuates the inability to tell whether the events being recounted really happened or not.
    • 2011, Robert Moss, Active Dreaming: Journeying Beyond Self-Limitation to a Life of Wild Freedom, pp. 21, 47
      Among indigenous and early peoples, the liminal state of dorveille (sleep-wake) is a time when you might stir and share dreams with whoever is available. [...] Sometimes a whole poem or song is delivered within a dream or in that fluid in-between zone of sleep-wake, dorveille.
    • 2000, Anne Marie D'Arcy, Wisdom and the Grail, p. 90
      [Lancelot] has witnessed the miraculous cure of his fellow knight, but he understands nothing of what he has seen in his somnolent dorveille.

Usage notes[edit]

  • Usually italicized as a borrowing.



Middle French[edit]


Inherited from Old French.



dorveille f (plural dorveilles)

  1. the vivid sleep when one thinks one is still awake; lucid sleep
    • Guillaume de Mauchaut, La prise d'Alixandre, circa 1365
      On dit que cils fait la dorveille
      Qui dort de l'ueil & dou cuer veille.
      They say that those [people] perform dorveille
      Who sleep with their eyes, but are awake in their heart.

Old French[edit]

Alternative forms[edit]


dormir (to sleep) +‎ veiller (to be awake; to be alert).


dorveille f (oblique plural dorveilles, nominative singular dorveille, nominative plural dorveilles)

  1. dozing, drowsiness; more precisely, a state intermediate between being asleep and being awake
  2. (figuratively) daydream, folly


Derived terms[edit]