Quarter Past Five: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
October 2, 2023

"Quarter past five" means 15 minutes after 5 o'clock. In terms of time, it refers to 5:15. Whether it's 5:15 in the morning or evening would depend on the context in which it's mentioned. If it's AM, it's in the early morning; if it's PM, it's in the evening.

In short:

  • "Quarter past five" is a way to state a time. It refers to 5:15, meaning 15 minutes past the hour of 5 o'clock.

What Does "Quarter Past Five" Mean?

The phrase "quarter past five" is commonly used to describe time in English-speaking countries. "Quarter" refers to one-fourth or 25% of something. When it comes to time, a "quarter" refers to 15 minutes because an hour is divided into four quarters (15 minutes x 4 = 60 minutes). So "quarter past five" is indicating the time at 15 minutes after 5 o'clock.

  • "Past" in this context means "after."
  • "Five" refers to the hour on the clock.
  • The "quarter" means one-quarter of an hour, which is 15 minutes.

Where Does "Quarter Past Five" Come From?

The practice of segmenting time into quarters goes back to ancient civilizations that observed the movement of celestial bodies. They noticed the consistent patterns and divided the day into segments for practical purposes, such as prayer, work, or rest. Over time, as clocks became more refined and widespread, this segmentation became standardized. The term "quarter past" expresses time and emphasizes the division of the hour. It's a more descriptive way of indicating time, as opposed to simply saying "5:15." This form of time-telling is prevalent in many cultures and languages, though the exact phrasing might differ.

10 Examples of "Quarter Past Five" in Sentences

Let's dive into some examples to better understand how this idiom is used in daily life.

  • I told you to be here by five, not quarter past five.
  • We need to leave; it's quarter past five already!
  • If you wait until quarter past five, the tickets will be sold out.
  • Treading water at quarter past five, I realized the swimming competition had already begun.
  • I found myself pegging out the laundry at quarter past five, just as the sun started to set.
  • It's a quarter past five; you missed the best part of the movie.
  • The last train leaves at a quarter past five, so hurry!
  • The office closes at five; if you come at quarter past five, you'll find it closed.
  • It's been a hectic day, and now that it's quarter past five, I realize I'm in a fix to finish all my tasks.
  • Time management is not my strong suit, as evidenced by my habitual lateness at quarter past five.

Examples of "Quarter Past Five" in Pop Culture

In these trying times, the idiom has appeared in various forms of media to signify lateness or lost opportunities.

  • In the movie "Inception," the phrase quarter past five is subtly used to emphasize the narrow time window the characters have.
  • In the book "To Kill a Mockingbird," the term is used to indicate the urgency of the court case.
  • The song "9 to 5" by Dolly Parton makes a contrasting reference to the quarter past five as the end of a workday.
  • In the TV series "Breaking Bad," the phrase symbolizes a missed opportunity for the main character, Walter White.
  • The classic film "Gone with the Wind" uses the term to signify the fading chances of a successful relationship.

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Quarter Past Five"

  • What is the basic meaning of this idiom?

The most direct interpretation of "quarter past five" refers to the clock showing 15 minutes past the hour of five. It can also be metaphorical, symbolizing missed opportunities and the irreversible nature of time.

  • How did this phrase come into existence?

The phrase originates from timekeeping. Initially, it was simply a way to denote a specific time of the day, but it later took on more philosophical meanings in various cultural contexts.

  • Is this idiom limited to English-speaking cultures?

While the exact phrasing is rooted in the English language, the concept of marking time in quarters past or before the hour is common in many cultures. However, the metaphorical meanings may not translate across all cultures.

  • What are some synonyms of the idiom?

Some synonyms include "5:15," "Fifteen minutes past the hour," and "Five-fifteen."

  • Why is this phrase often used metaphorically?

It's often used metaphorically to underscore the idea that time waits for no one. This metaphorical use has evolved over time and is now deeply embedded in the language.

  • Is this phrase gender-specific?

No, the idiom is gender-neutral and can be used by anyone irrespective of gender.

  •  Can this idiom find application in a business context?

Yes, it can be used in a business context to indicate the importance of deadlines or the value of time in productivity.

  • Are there any famous quotes involving this idiom?

While there may not be universally acclaimed quotes involving this specific idiom, it has been used in literature and speeches to make a point about the irreversible nature of time.

  • Is it appropriate to use this idiom in formal writing?

It depends on the context. While it is not necessarily inappropriate, using specific times might be more suitable in formal writing, unless you are using the idiom metaphorically to emphasize a point.

  • How can understanding this idiom enrich my language skills?

Understanding the idiom "quarter past five" not only adds to your vocabulary but also provides insight into how language can evolve. It's a simple phrase with layers of meaning, both literal and metaphorical, and learning it can help you appreciate the depth and nuance that idioms can bring to communication.

Final Thoughts About "Quarter Past Five"

In summary, the idiom "quarter past five" serves as a compelling reminder about the importance of time and opportunity.

  • It can refer to the time of 5:15 or a missed chance.
  • The phrase has evolved to include a metaphorical sense of urgency.
  • People frequently use it in everyday conversation and pop culture to emphasize the importance of timely action.

Whether we're in a fix or sailing smoothly, this idiom and others like it provide us with the linguistic tools to express our experiences and perceptions in a precise and emotionally resonant way.

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