Quarter to Eight: Definition, Meaning and Origin

Last Updated on
June 6, 2023

The idiom "Quarter to eight" is a phrase commonly used in English-speaking countries to denote the time as being 7:45, or specifically, fifteen minutes before eight o'clock.

In short:

The idiom "Quarter to eight" denotes that the current time is 7:45. 

What Does "Quarter to Eight" Mean?

The expression "Quarter to eight" is a direct reference to time, typically used in countries where English is a primary language. Let's further examine the individual components of this idiom before delving deeper into the contextual applications. Collectively, when someone asserts it's a "quarter to eight," they are indicating that it's fifteen minutes until eight o'clock. This idiom could be expressed differently as "half past seven" or "fifteen till eight."

  • The term "quarter" in this setting denotes one-fourth of an hour, which equals 15 minutes.
  • "To" symbolizes the direction of time's flow, signifying that it's moving toward the upcoming hour.
  • "Eight" corresponds to the eighth hour on the clock.

Where Does "Quarter to Eight" Come From?

The idiom "quarter to eight" is derived from the traditional way of telling time that dates back hundreds of years, especially in English-speaking countries. This time-telling convention involves dividing the hour into halves and quarters. This idiom is a reflection of that time-keeping tradition. The idiom has been used for centuries and is well-established in English literature. Its usage can be traced back to times when people depended heavily on clocks with hands for telling the time rather than digital displays.

Historical Example

"At a quarter to eight, a knock was heard on the door, and in another minute, Cusack was in the room."

—Sherlock Holmes series, by Arthur Conan Doyle's

10 Examples of "Quarter to Eight" in Sentences

Below are ten sentences demonstrating the use of the idiom "quarter to eight."

  • I glanced at my watch and realized it was quarter to eight, but luckily, I had finished all my tasks and was good to go for the evening.
  • I have a meeting from a quarter to eight tomorrow.
  • As the clock struck a quarter to eight, Sarah arrived at the party with a warm smile and said, you are more than welcome to join us and celebrate!
  • The train departs at a quarter to eight.
  • The sun had already risen by a quarter to eight.
  • As the clock struck a quarter to eight, we collectively decided to leave the past behind and move forward with renewed determination.
  • By a quarter to eight, the house was already bustling.
  • At a quarter to eight, he kissed his wife goodbye.
  • As I stepped into the bustling city streets, it was quarter to eight, and the hustle and bustle of people rushing to work filled the air.
  • It was a quarter to eight when the phone rang.

Examples of "Quarter to Eight" in Pop Culture

The idiom "quarter to eight" continues to make appearances in popular culture, especially in songs, films, and literature.

Below are a few examples where this idiom has been featured prominently:

  • In the movie Before Sunrise, the character Jesse says, "I've got to catch a flight tomorrow morning at quarter to eight."
  • Rock band U2 has a song named "One," where the lyric goes, "You ask me to enter, but then you make me crawl, and I can't keep holding on to what you've got when all you've got is hurt. One love, one blood, one life, you got to do what you should. One life with each other: sisters, brothers. One life, but we're not the same. We get to carry each other, carry each other One life. At a quarter to eight, I have a date."
  • Scarlett O'Hara exclaims in the classic film Gone With the Wind, "I can't think about that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy. I'll think about that tomorrow, a quarter to eight."
  • The novel 1984 by George Orwell contains a line, "The clock's hands said seven-twenty: it was nineteen-twenty really. She knew the time because there was a clock in the kitchen."
  • Bob Dylan's song "Meet Me in the Morning" includes the lyrics, "Little rooster crowin', there must be something on his mind. Little rooster crowin', there must be something on his mind. Well, I feel just like that rooster, honey; ya treat me so unkind. It was a quarter to eight."
  • In the animated series Peppa Pig, Daddy Pig often says, "Quarter to eight - time for work!"
  • In J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, the Hogwarts Express leaves precisely a quarter to eight.
  • The popular British TV series Doctor Who has an episode in which the Doctor says, "Quarter to Eight, time to save the universe again!"

Other Ways to Say "Quarter to Eight" in Sentences

Here are some alternative ways to express "quarter to eight."

Some of these include:

  • It's 7:45.
  • It's fifteen till eight.
  • It's fifteen minutes to eight.
  • It's three-quarters past seven.
  • It's three-quarters after seven.
  • It's fifteen minutes before eight.
  • It's three-quarters of the way through the seventh hour."
  • It's three-quarters past the seventh hour.
  • It's nearly eight.
  • It's close to eight.

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Quarter to Eight":

  • What does "quarter to eight" mean?
    It means it's 15 minutes before eight o'clock, i.e., it's 7:45.
  • What is the origin of "quarter to eight"?
    This idiom comes from the traditional English way of expressing time, where the hour is divided into halves and quarters.
  • What is a variation of "quarter to eight"?
    A variation could be "fifteen till eight" or "three-quarters past seven."
  • Is "quarter to eight" used in pop culture?
    Yes, it is often used in movies, songs, novels, etc., to denote a specific time.
  • Can "quarter to eight" be used in any other way?
    This idiom is specifically used to express time and doesn't have any other figurative meanings.
  • Is "quarter to eight" used worldwide?
    The usage is more common in English-speaking countries. Digital time representation (7:45) is more commonly used in some other regions.
  • Is "quarter to eight" AM or PM?
    The idiom does not specify AM or PM. It depends on the context.
  • Can "quarter to eight" be used to express deadlines?
    Yes, it can be used to specify deadlines, meeting times, etc.
  • Is "quarter to eight" formal or informal?
    It can be used in both formal and informal contexts.
  • How else can "quarter to eight" be said?
    It can be alternatively expressed as "It's 7:45" or "It's fifteen minutes to eight."

Final Thoughts About "Quarter to Eight"

The idiom "quarter to eight" is a common and useful phrase to express time in the English language. It is a timeless idiom, quite literally! It is a phrase that is relevant in any era as long as we continue to track time. Its usage can make our expressions sound more natural and our language richer. So, don't hesitate to use it when you check the time at 7:45.

Key aspects of the phrase "Quarter to Eight":

  • It signifies the time being fifteen minutes before eight o'clock.
  • It originates from the traditional way of expressing time, which involves dividing the hour into halves and quarters.
  • The phrase is used extensively in everyday conversations and also in pop culture.

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