A Quarter of Ten: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
September 29, 2023

The idiom "a quarter of ten" means 9:45 in some parts of the world, especially in the United Kingdom. It means that there are 15 minutes left before it is 10 o'clock. The word "quarter" refers to a fourth or a fraction of something, in this case, an hour.

In short:

  • "A quarter of ten" means 9:45.
  • It is used to tell or ask the time in an informal way.
  • It is more common in the United Kingdom than in other countries.

What Does "A Quarter of Ten" Mean?

The idiom "a quarter of ten" expresses the time 9:45 in some parts of the world. It is based on the idea that an hour can be divided into four equal parts, each consisting of 15 minutes. Therefore, a quarter of an hour is 15 minutes, and a quarter of ten is 15 minutes before ten or 9:45. It is not a formal or standard way of writing or saying the time, and everyone may not understand it.

Where Does "A Quarter of Ten" Come From?

The origin and history of the idiom "a quarter of ten" are unclear, but it may have originated from the first way of telling the time, which uses quarters instead of halves. However, over time, it may have become less popular or less understood by some people, especially those who use the second way of telling the time.

Historical Example

One of the earliest examples of the idiom "a quarter of ten" can be found in a letter written by Samuel Pepys, a famous English diarist and naval administrator, in 1660. He wrote:

"I went out with Mr. Creed to several places to look for a coach, but could not get one for any money till night when it was very late; and then got one to carry us home for a quarter of ten."

10 Examples of "A Quarter of Ten" in Sentences

Here are some examples of how to use this idiom in different sentences:

  • She was born at a quarter of ten on one fine day in June.
  • My bad, I can't talk right now. I have a meeting at a quarter of ten.
  • What time is it? Oh snap, it's a quarter of ten! We should hurry up!
  • He finished his homework at a quarter of ten and then surfed the net.
  • What a scrub. He said he would meet us at a quarter of ten but is not here yet.
  • Pro tip: The store closes at a quarter of ten, so you must hurry to buy something.
  • Holy cow! I must leave by a quarter of ten because I have an appointment at 10:30.
  • The train leaves at a quarter of ten, so we must go downtown to the station by 9:40.
  • The movie starts at a quarter of ten, so we should whip down to get popcorn and drinks.
  • He usually wakes up at a quarter of ten in the dorm, but today, he slept at home until 10:15.

Examples of "A Quarter of Ten" in Pop Culture

Here are some examples of how this idiom has appeared in various forms of pop culture:

  • In the Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone book by J.K. Rowling, published in 1997, Harry Potter and his friends must catch a train to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry at "a quarter of ten" from platform nine and three-quarters.
  • In the song "9 To 5" by Dolly Parton, released in 1980, she sings about the struggles of working in an office from nine to five. It mentions the variation of the phrase "a quarter of ten" in its lyrics.
  • The TV show Friends has an episode called "The One Where Rachel Finds Out" in season one. In this episode, Rachel receives a message from Ross, who has gone to China for work. He says: "Hi, it's me. I'm on a pay phone in China. It's a quarter of ten here, which I think makes it… yesterday. Anyway, I just wanted to say hi and let you know I'm having a great time. And I miss you. Okay, bye." Rachel then realizes that Ross has feelings for her.

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

Here are some synonyms and alternative expressions for this idiom:

  • 9:45
  • Nine forty-five
  • Fifteen minutes to ten
  • Fifteen to ten
  • A quarter to ten

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "A Quarter of Ten"

Here are some frequently asked questions about this idiom:

  • What does "a quarter of ten" mean?

The idiom "a quarter of ten" means 9:45 in some parts of the world, especially in the United Kingdom. It means that there are 15 minutes left before it is 10 o'clock. The word "quarter" refers to a fourth or a fraction of something, in this case, an hour.

  • What is the origin of the phrase "a quarter of ten"?

The origin and history of the idiom "a quarter of ten" are unclear, but it may have originated from the first way of telling the time, which uses quarters instead of halves. However, over time, it may have become less popular or less understood by some people, especially those who use the second way of telling the time.

  • What are some synonyms for "a quarter of ten"?

Some synonyms for "a quarter of ten" are 9:45, nine forty-five, fifteen minutes to ten, fifteen to ten, and a quarter to ten.

  • What are some antonyms for "a quarter of ten"?

Some antonyms for "a quarter of ten" are 10:15, ten fifteen, fifteen minutes past ten, fifteen past ten, and a quarter past ten.

  • Why do some people say "a quarter of ten" and others say "a quarter to ten"?

The reason why some people say "a quarter of ten" and others say "a quarter to ten" may depend on their dialect, region, or preference. Both expressions mean the same thing, but they use different prepositions. "A quarter of ten" indicates that it is part of the hour of ten, while "a quarter to ten" shows that it is approaching the hour of ten.

  • How do you write "a quarter of ten" in numbers?

To write "a quarter of ten" in numbers, you can use the format 9:45 or 09:45. This is the standard way of writing the time using digits. You can also add AM or PM to specify whether morning or evening.

  • How do you say "a quarter of ten" in other languages?

Spanish: Son las nueve y cuarto (It is nine and a quarter)
French: Il est neuf heures et quart (It is nine hours and a quarter)
German: Es ist Viertel vor zehn (It is quarter before ten)

  • Is "a quarter of ten" an idiom or a phrase?

"A quarter of ten" is an idiom, not just a phrase. An idiom is a fixed expression with a symbolic meaning different from its literal meaning. A phrase is a group of words that has a grammatical function but does not form a complete sentence.

  • How do you use "a quarter of ten" in a question?

To use "a quarter of ten" in a question, you can follow the same rules as using it in a statement. You can use it to ask about the time or confirm it.

Example: What time is it? Is it a quarter of ten?

  • Is "a quarter of ten" formal or informal?

"A quarter of ten" is informal. It is not a standard or official way of writing or saying the time. Everyone may not understand it.

Final Thoughts About "A Quarter of Ten"

The idiom "a quarter of ten" means saying 9:45 informally. It is based on the idea that an hour can be divided into four parts, each consisting of 15 minutes.

Here are some key points to remember about this idiom:

  • It is used to tell or ask the time informally.
  • It is more common in the United Kingdom than in other countries.
  • It has some synonyms, antonyms, and related expressions.

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