A Quarter of Seven: Definition, Meaning and Origin

Last Updated on
October 30, 2023

The phrase "a quarter of seven" is a way to express the time 6:45. In this expression, "a quarter" refers to 15 minutes, and "of seven" means that it's 15 minutes before 7 o'clock. The phrase is less commonly used than its counterpart, "a quarter to seven," but both mean the same thing: that it is 15 minutes before 7 o'clock.

In short:

"A quarter of seven" typically refers to the time, specifically 6:45. However, its usage and meaning can vary based on context and region.

What Does “A Quarter of Seven” Mean?

The idiom "a quarter of seven" suggests a specific time on the clock. In the context of telling time, when we say it's "a quarter of seven," we're indicating that it's fifteen minutes before seven o'clock.

Key aspects of the idiom's meaning:

  • "A quarter of seven" means it's 6:45. The term "quarter" here is used to denote a quarter of an hour, or 15 minutes.
  • It's used when you want to tell the time in a somewhat informal or conversational manner. For example, if someone asks you what time it is, you might respond, "It's a quarter of seven.
  • The phrase is often used to specify the time in everyday speech. It's less formal than saying, "It is 6:45," but more descriptive than just saying, "It's almost seven."
  • Synonyms for "a quarter of seven" are "quarter to seven," "fifteen minutes to seven," and "6:45."

While common in some English-speaking regions, this idiom may be less familiar to non-native speakers or in different cultural contexts where digital time is more commonly used.

Where Does “A Quarter of Seven” Come From?

The term "quarter" has its roots in Old French, specifically the word "quartier," which means "one-fourth of anything." Historically, this term was frequently used to denote the four divisions of any item or concept. The expression "quarter of an hour" can be traced back to the mid-15th century.

The preposition "of" in "a quarter of seven" possibly stems from the old-fashioned phraseology "It wants/lacks a quarter of 10." This method of telling time has deep historical roots and was used both in England and the U.S. The phrases "it wanted of" or "it lacked of" were commonly used in time reporting until the 19th century. It's plausible that some today still use the "of" construction as a condensed version of these older phrases.

10 Examples of “A Quarter of Seven” in Sentences

Understanding an idiom is often easier when seen in context. Here are ten examples that showcase the versatility of "a quarter of seven":

  • We'll meet you at the station at a quarter of seven.
  • She usually wakes up around a quarter of seven every morning.
  • The movie starts at a quarter of seven, so we should leave soon.
  • I remember the clock striking a quarter of seven when he called.
  • The train to Paris leaves at a quarter of seven.
  • He finished his work by a quarter of seven and then went home.
  • The sun was just rising around a quarter of seven.
  • I have a meeting scheduled for a quarter of seven tomorrow.
  • The bakery opens at a quarter of seven if you want fresh bread.
  • She said she'd be here by a quarter of seven, but she's always late.

These examples highlight the idiom's primary use: to describe a specific time.

Examples of “A Quarter of Seven” in Pop Culture

While "a quarter of seven" might not be as prevalent in pop culture as some other idioms, it has made appearances in various media:

  • "We celebrated Christmas by sleepin till a quarter to seven instead of hap past six. Only they forgot to tell the fello what blows the horn an he blew it at hap past six anyway." - Dere Mable: Love Letters of a Rookie (WWI Centenary Series) by Edward Streeter
  • "I was a little confused, because I thought that I might have overslept. I looked at the clock on my dresser, and the time was a quarter of seven." - Diary of a Married Woman: A Novel by Etim Sam Ekong
  • "For Vizetelly, a quarter of seven is one and three - fourths, that is, 'seven divided by four.' He accepts only the expression a quarter to seven as correct." - Take My Word for it: More On Language by William Safire

Synonyms: Other/Different Ways to Say “A Quarter of Seven"

When it comes to telling time, here are some synonyms for "a quarter of seven":

  • 6:45 (or 7:15, depending on the context)
  • Fifteen minutes to seven
  • Fifteen minutes before seven

These alternatives can help in situations where clarity is paramount.

10 Frequently Asked Questions About “A Quarter of Seven”:

  • What exactly does "a quarter of seven" mean?

It typically means 6:45, indicating fifteen minutes before seven. However, in some contexts, it can mean 7:15.

  • Is "a quarter of seven" used worldwide?

While the idiom is understood in many English-speaking regions, its exact meaning can vary based on location.

  • Why is it called "a quarter of seven" and not "A quarter to seven"?

Both phrases exist, but their usage might differ based on regional preferences.

  • Can this idiom be used for times other than seven?

Indeed , you can use it for any hour, like "a quarter of five" or "a quarter of ten."

  • Is it formal to use "a quarter of seven"?

It's more casual than saying "6:45," but it's acceptable in most informal and some formal situations.

  • How did this way of telling time originate?

The exact origins are unclear, but it likely evolved with the widespread use of clocks and the need for precise time-telling phrases.

  • Are there other idioms related to time-telling?

Yes, phrases like "half-past" or "quarter after" are also used to describe time.

  • Is "a quarter of seven" used in literature?

It can be found in various literary works, often to convey a sense of time or urgency.

  • Do other languages have similar idioms for time-telling?

Many languages have their own unique ways of expressing time, though the exact phrases and their structures can vary greatly.

  • Can "a quarter of seven" be used in formal writing?

It's best to use the exact time, like "6:45," in formal writing for clarity.

Final Thoughts about “A Quarter of Seven”

The idiom "a quarter of seven" holds a unique place in language, offering a colloquial way to express time.

  • Typically means 6:45 but can vary based on region.
  • Used in everyday conversation and some media.
  • Understanding its meaning and context is crucial for clear communication.

As we navigate the world of language, idioms like "a quarter of seven" enrich our expressions and connections with others.

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