A Quarter To One: Definition, Meaning and Origin

Last Updated on
May 31, 2023

The phrase "A Quarter To One" is a straightforward idiom used in English to indicate the time, specifically 12:45. This idiom is part of the way we communicate time in the English-speaking world, with the term 'quarter' referring to 15 minutes, and 'to' suggesting that it is 15 minutes until the next hour, in this case, one o'clock.

In short:

"A Quarter To One" represents the time 12:45 in the 12-hour clock format.

What Does "A Quarter To One" Mean?

In English, "A Quarter To One" is used to express the time. This phrase directly translates to 15 minutes before one o'clock, or 12:45. It’s a common way to express time in many English-speaking countries.

  • The term 'quarter' is used to represent 15 minutes.
  • The word 'to' indicates 15 minutes until the next hour.

This idiom can be varied based on the time being described. For example, a quarter to two' would mean 1:45, and a quarter to twelve' would mean 11:45. These are all examples of how we break down hours into quarter-hour segments in English.

Where Does "A Quarter To One" Come From?

The word 'quarter' comes from the Latin 'quartarius', which denotes a fourth part of something. In this context, it refers to a fourth part of an hour or 15 minutes. The use of 'to' in this phrase indicates that the specified time is approaching, in this case, one o'clock.

Historical Example

"At a quarter to one, I have to be at the bank to meet my business associate,"

—A quote from the 19th-century diary of a British businessman.

The current system of time, dividing the day into two 12-hour periods, dates back to the 14th century. This was brought to Europe by astronomers who influenced the ancient Egyptians and Babylonians. The terms 'quarter past' and 'quarter to' have been used since at least the late 18th century to denote 15 minutes past or to the hour.

10 Examples of "A Quarter To One" in Sentences

Here are ten examples of how "A quarter to one" can be used in sentences:

  • I appreciate your concern, but I'll be ready to leave in a quarter to one. Thanks for checking up on me!
  • Startling everyone, he arrived home at a quarter to one in the morning.
  • The train departs at a quarter to one.
  • The class starts at a quarter to one.
  • I woke up at a quarter to one in the night because of the thunderstorm.
  • I arrived at the meeting a quarter to one, and when I entered the room, everyone greeted me with a warm smile and said, You're most welcome!
  • The movie starts at a quarter to one.
  • I have a dentist appointment at a quarter to one.
  • The lunch break ends at a quarter to one.
  • I have a meeting scheduled at a quarter to one.

Examples of "A quarter to one" in Pop Culture

Here are some examples of the phrase 'A quarter to one' used in popular culture:

  • In the movie 'Before Sunrise,' one of the characters says, "I have a flight to catch at a quarter to one.'"
  • In Watsky's song 'One More Minute,' the lyrics go: "It's a quarter to one,' and I'm shouting at the sky."
  • In an episode of 'Friends,' Ross mentions, "I have a date at a quarter to one.'"
  • In the popular TV show 'Breaking Bad,' Walter White sets a meeting at a quarter to one.
  • In the book 'The Catcher in the Rye,' Holden says, "I couldn't sleep till a quarter to one."
  • In 'The Big Bang Theory,' Sheldon says, "My bedtime is 'a quarter to one.'"
  • In the film 'Inception,' the phrase is used: "We will meet at the warehouse at a quarter to one.'"
  • The Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban book says, "The Hogwarts Express leaves at a quarter to one."

Other Ways to Say "A Quarter To One" in Sentences

There are various ways to express the same time in English.

Here are some examples:

  • I'll see you at 12:45.
  • He got home at twelve forty-five in the morning.
  • The train leaves at forty-five minutes past twelve.
  • The meeting starts fifteen minutes before one.
  • I woke up 45 minutes after midnight due to the noise.
  • She finished her tasks by 10:45.
  • The film begins at one minus fifteen minutes.
  • I have a dentist's appointment at three quarters past twelve.
  • Lunchtime ends at fifteen to one.
  • I have a conference call at 12.45 PM.


10 Frequently Asked Questions About "A Quarter To One"

  • What does a quarter to one mean?
    It means that it is 15 minutes before one o'clock or 12:45.
  • Where does a quarter to one come from?
    The phrase comes from the practice of dividing the hour into quarters, which has roots in ancient civilizations.
  • How is "a quarter to one" used?
    It is used to express the time, particularly 15 minutes before one o'clock.
  • Can "a quarter to one" be used for other times?
    Yes, it can. The phrase can be modified based on the hour being referred to. For example, "a quarter to two" would mean 1:45.
  • Is "a quarter to one" used globally?
    Yes, it is commonly used in English-speaking countries around the world.
  • Can "a quarter to one" be used in a formal context?
    Yes, it can be used in both formal and informal contexts.
  • What is the difference between a quarter to one and "a quarter past one"?
    'A quarter to one' means 12:45, whereas a quarter past one' means 1:15.
  • Can a quarter to one be used to denote both AM and PM times?
    Yes, it can be used to denote both AM (morning) and PM (afternoon/evening) times.
  • Is there a digital equivalent for a quarter to one?
    Yes, the digital equivalent of a quarter to one is 12:45.
  • What are other ways to say a quarter to one?
    Other ways to say 'a quarter to one' include '12:45', 'twelve forty-five,' and 'fifteen minutes before one.'

Final Thoughts About "A Quarter To One"

The idiom "A quarter to one" is an important part of English language timekeeping.

  • It is used to denote the time, specifically 12:45.
  • The idiom can be modified for different times (e.g., "a quarter to two" for 1:45).
  • This phrase, like many idioms in English, contributes to the richness and versatility of the language.

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