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I have learnt these words so far, please correct me if I'm wrong:

  • Dawn, maybe 4am–6am?
  • Morning, maybe 6am–9am? The food for the morning is called breakfast. People greet each other Good morning!
  • Noon, maybe 11am–1pm? The food is called lunch.
  • Afternoon, maybe 2pm–4pm? People greet each other Good afternoon!
  • Evening, maybe 6pm–9pm? The food for the evening is called supper. People greet each other Good evening!
  • Night, maybe 9pm–11pm? However, Good night means "have a good sleep".
  • Mid-night, maybe 11pm–1am?

You see, I've missed some parts of a day, I may be not correct on the time boundaries of each part, though.

I would like to complete the list, especially the part after the morning but before the afternoon. My teacher never told us to use the word noon, and good noon seems never used by anyone.

I would like to know each part of a day, its corresponding food term (like lunch, supper, etc.), and its corresponding greeting words, thanks.

Summary

I'll update the table to reflect the answers:

Part          Begin End   Meal             Greeting
------------- ----- ----- ---------------- ---------------------
morning/dawn   0:00  5:00                  
early morning  5:00  6:00                  Good morning
morning        6:00  9:00 breakfast        Good morning
mid-morning    9:00 11:59 elevenses/       Good morning
                          morning tea/
                          brunch
noon          12:00 12:00 -
afternoon     12:00 17:00 lunch/           Good afternoon
                          afternoon tea
evening       17:00 21:00 supper           Good evening
night         21:00 23:00 night-time snack Good evening
midnight      23:00  1:00 midnight snack   Good night
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4  
One second past midnight is already morning. –  kiamlaluno Jun 4 '11 at 10:21
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8 Answers

up vote 15 down vote accepted

Times:

  1. Dawn refers to the time around the actual solar event that is sunrise.

  2. Morning refers to any time before noon, so 1am is still the morning.

  3. Very early morning is sometimes known as "the small hours" (or any regional variant of those words). The actual time is variable, although you will probably provoke a laugh from working people if you refer to any time after 7am in that way (and probably any time after 6am).

  4. Noon refers to 12pm (exact midday) and the time just around it. 1101 is not noon.

  5. Afternoon refers to the time after Noon and before the Night. "Good afternoon" is only used after noon.

  6. Dusk corresponds to dawn, and refers to the event of the sun setting.

  7. Evening is variable in its usage, and is tied both to work schedules and the solar time. It's pretty much always correct to refer to the part of the day when the light begins to wane as "evening".

  8. Night refers to the time after sunset. Accordingly, it can be both morning and night (this being pretty much the definition of the small hours).

  9. Midnight refers to exactly 0000/2400 hours, and the time just around it. 2301 is not midnight.

  10. "Good night" does not mean "have a good sleep". It is used as a farewell when it is late, whether anyone is planning on going home or not.

Meals:

  1. Lunch is a meal taken between breakfast and the evening meal (howsoever called). It is not tied to any specific time beyond that.

  2. The main evening meal may be called "dinner", "supper", or "tea" depending on regional dialect and class. "Dinner" is probably the most neutral option in most dialects (although in some dialects it means the main meal of the day even if that was lunch, or it may mean something else). If a second evening meal is taken, or a very late evening meal is taken, it might be called supper in distinction to dinner. This is not so common any longer.

  3. "Afternoon tea" is a specific meal. Its defining feature is not really that it is taken in the afternoon, but rather the elements it is composed of: it will be a short snack, usually of tea or coffee and a sweet or savory baked good. "Morning tea" is the corresponding snack in the morning.

We are not "fixing" you, because you are not broken. We are correcting you in so far as we think you are wrong.

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Related: english.stackexchange.com/questions/22446/… –  z7sg Ѫ Jun 4 '11 at 11:35
5  
"What about second breakfast?" "...and Elevensies?" –  oosterwal Jul 22 '11 at 23:47
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I found this website, it should help you much better in understanding the times of the day.

http://www.nist.gov/pml/div688/times.cfm

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Please give some idea of what that site provides, not just a link. –  Chenmunka Apr 1 at 9:45
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While this link may answer the question, it is better to include the essential parts of the answer here and provide the link for reference. Link-only answers can become invalid if the linked page changes. –  medica Apr 1 at 10:14
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In my (northern US) dialect: the first meal of the day is called breakfast; the second meal of the day is called lunch (if it is a light meal) or dinner (if it is a heavy meal); the third meal of the day is called supper (if it is a light meal) or dinner (if it is a heavy meal).

In rural areas, the heavy meal is likely to be around noon; in urban areas, the heavy meal is likely to be early evening (except that on Sunday it may be early afternoon).

If the first and second meals are combined, they are called brunch (but commonly brunch is only on a weekend, and even so people are more likely to just call
it a big breakfast, after which they "skip" lunch). Brunch feels like an artificial word. It's good to understand, but not to use.

Any other food is called a snack, and it is usually very light (like a piece of fruit, or a cookie).

The actual times of the meals is not as important as whether they're first or second or third, and light or heavy.

If someone eats only one or two meals in a day, there are no ready-made names. Probably we would name a meal breakfast, lunch, dinner, or supper depending on what it looks like and what time of day it is.

We don't use the word tea for a meal, just for the beverage.

As for time of day, my dialect has two sets of word. One refers to the clock and one refers to the sky.

The set of words that refers to the clock is: midnight (exactly 12:00 am), morning (from 12:01 am to 11:59 am), noon (exactly 12:00 pm), afternoon (from 12:01 pm to 6:00 pm), evening (from 6:00 pm to 11:59 pm).

The set of words that refers to the sky is: dawn (sky is getting light), sunrise (exactly when the sun is first visible), day or daytime (between sunrise and sunset), sunset (exactly when the sun is last visible), dusk (sky is getting dark), night or nighttime (sky is dark).

There is a slight tendency to use clock words when we are inside, and sky words when we are outside.

In my dialect, our greeting and parting words are:
between midnight and noon, we say good morning (or hello), and goodbye; between noon and 6 pm, we say good afternoon (or hello), and goodbye; between 6 pm and midnight, we say good evening (or hello), and goodbye (or good evening, if early evening, or good night, if late evening).

Another use of good night is when saying "sleep well" to someone when the lights are turned off for sleep.

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1  
Very well written .. Can you please check "supper (if it is a light meal) or supper (if it is a heavy meal)"? I am assuming they both are not supposed to be called "Supper"?! –  Mohit Aug 12 '13 at 4:47
    
Using the word supper is quaint and peculiar. –  Tristan Aug 12 '13 at 22:43
    
I stand corrected. At the end of the first paragraph, I meant to say supper (if it is a light mean) and dinner (if it is a heavy meal). –  Susan Tideman Aug 14 '13 at 2:48
    
In my dialect, the word supper is used commonly in rural areas and rarely in urban areas (because urban areas have the heavy meal in the evening, and thus do not have supper). Thus the word might sound quaint to urban people. –  Susan Tideman Aug 14 '13 at 2:53
    
@Tristan Nonsense! –  tchrist Aug 19 '13 at 12:27
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Just a warning about noon and midnight: one should never use a.m. or p.m. (or ᴀᴍ and ᴘᴍ) in conjunction with noon and midnight. They are at best ambiguous and confusing, and at worst, simply wrong. Noon is neither ᴀᴍ nor ᴘᴍ, and midnight is arguably both.

You can also easily find conflicting opinions about whether noon is 12 ᴀᴍ or 12 ᴘᴍ; fifty years ago it was more likely that noon was considered 12 ᴀᴍ and midnight was 12 ᴘᴍ, but today it is more common to see those expressed the other way around.

But both are wrong, so this will get you in trouble.

For example, a court case in Ocean Cit, Maryland came up because the parking meters said they were active during “8 ᴀᴍ – 12 ᴘᴍ”. Someone fought a ticket they’d gotten after noon, since they thought it meant that the meters stopped at noon but the city thought it stopped at midnight. The judge ruled against the city for putting up a confusing and ambiguous notice, and all meters there now read “8 ᴀᴍ – midnight” instead.

For reasons of correctness, confusion, and ambiguity, most style guides tell you to never use ᴀᴍ or ᴘᴍ with noon and midnight, and that you should instead write either 12 noon and 12 midnight, or else dispense with the numbers altogether and simply write noon and midnight.

Authoritative references for this and excerpts from many English-language style guides follow.


According to both the National Institute of Standards and Technology FAQ and the National Physical Laboratory FAQ alike, there is no such time as “12 p.m.” or “12 a.m.”, and these should not be used. Instead, “12 noon” and “12 midnight” should be used.

Specifically, NIST says:

Are noon and midnight referred to as 12 a.m. or 12 p.m.?

This is a tricky question because 12 a.m. and 12 p.m. are ambiguous and should not be used.

[. . .]

Hours of operation for a business or other references to a block of time should also follow this designation rule. For example, a business might be open on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon or weekends from 3:30 p.m. until midnight.

And NPL states:

Is midnight 12 a.m. or 12 p.m.? (FAQ - Time)

There is no confusion when using the words 12 noon (or mid-day) and 12 midnight, although the use of 12 midnight can raise the question of 'which day?'. To avoid confusion in, for example, an insurance certificate, it is always better to use the 24-hour clock, when 12:00 is 12 noon and, for example, 24:00 Sunday or 00:00 Monday both mean 12 midnight Sunday/Monday. It is common in transport timetables to use 23:59 Sunday or 00:01 Monday (in this example), or 11:59 p.m. or 12:01 a.m., to further reduce confusion.

[. . .]

Another convention sometimes used is that, since 12 noon is by definition neither ante meridiem (before noon) nor post meridiem (after noon), then 12 a.m. refers to midnight at the start of the specified day (00:00) and 12 p.m. to midnight at the end of that day (24:00). Given this ambiguity, the terms 12 a.m. and 12 p.m. should be avoided.

I can attest to seeing 12 p.m. used for midnight of one day and 12 a.m. for that same midnight but of the next day.

And here from the time FAQ from the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich (people who should know about time :)

Is noon 12 a.m. or 12 p.m.?

12 noon is neither a.m. nor p.m.

To avoid confusion, the correct designation for 12 o'clock is 12 noon or 12 midnight. Alternatively, the 24-hour clock system may be used.

The abbreviation a.m. stands for ante-meridiem (before the Sun has crossed the line) and p.m. for post-meridiem (after the Sun has crossed the line). At 12 noon, the Sun is at its highest point in the sky and directly over the meridian. It is therefore neither 'ante-' nor 'post-'.

The Middlebury College Condensed Style Guide reads:

Always use “noon” and “midnight” instead of 12:00 a.m. or 12:00 p.m. There is no such thing as 12:00 a.m. or 12:00 p.m. because a.m. begins immediately after midnight and p.m. begins immediately after noon.

The AP Style Guide reads:

Time

Time is always written as a numeral attached to a.m. or p.m., e.g., 7 a.m., 2 p.m., 8:15 a.m., 9:21 p.m. If you choose to write the time as 5 o'clock, you do not write 5 o'clock p.m.; you write 5 o'clock in the morning or evening. There is no such thing as 12 a.m. or 12 p.m.; use midnight and noon.

MIT’s ComDor Editorial Style Guide’s section on “Date and time terminology” reads:

Noon and midnight

Do not use 12 a.m. or 12 p.m., as they are ambiguous. Instead, 12 noon or 12 midnight or, better yet, simply noon or midnight.

More from our friends at Greenwich:

A.M. and P.M.

What is Noon and Midnight?

A.M. and P.M. start immediately after Midnight and Noon (Midday) respectively.

This means that 00:00 A.M. or 00:00 P.M. (or 12:00 A.M. and 12:00 P.M.) have no meaning.

Every day starts precisely at midnight and A.M. starts immediately after that point in time e.g. 00:00:01 A.M. (see also leap seconds)

To avoid confusion timetables, when scheduling around midnight, prefer to use either 23:59 or 00:01 to avoid confusion as to which day is being referred to.

It is after Noon that P.M. starts e.g. 00:00:01 ᴘᴍ (12:00:01)

From McMaster University’s writing style guide:

DATES AND TIMES

12 noon and 12 midnight (rather than 12 a.m. or 12 p.m.)

From Columbia University Chicago’s Editorial Style Guide:

a.m., p.m. — Numerals are used when exact times are emphasized. Use lowercase and periods. (5:22 a.m., 2:53 p.m.). Do not use ᴀᴍ, ᴘᴍ, or am, pm. Numbers should never be used to express noon or midnight. (In other words, do not use 12 p.m. or 12 a.m.) Do not use 12 noon or 12 midnight.

From the Buttler University Invitation Style Guide:

Time of Event

  • Include the minutes unless the time is the top of an hour (e.g., 10:30 a.m., 10 a.m.).
  • Always include a.m. or p.m. unless the time is noon or midnight. Write a.m. and p.m. lowercase with periods.
  • Do not use 12 with noon or midnight.

From the University of Southern Indiana style guide:

image of directions for noon and midnight

From the Hull University style guide:

time of day Use numerals in ‘8 am’, ‘11.30 pm’, etc; spell out the hour in ‘eight o’clock’, ‘half past eleven’, etc. Never mix the two conventions: do not write, for example, ‘7 o’clock’, ‘seven pm’, or – even worse – ‘7 o’clock pm’. Never use ‘am’ with ‘morning’ or ‘pm’ with ‘evening’ (that is, do not write ‘9 am in the morning’ or ‘7 pm in the evening’), and never use the forms ‘12 am’ and ‘12 pm’ (for noon and midnight).

From The Guardian’s style guide:

times

1am, 6.30pm, etc; 10 o'clock last night but 10pm yesterday; half past two, a quarter to three, 10 to 11, etc; 2hr 5min 6sec, etc; for 24-hour clock, 00.47, 23.59; noon, midnight (not 12 noon, 12 midnight or 12am, 12pm).


Summary

There are plenty more examples out there containing the advice to never use ᴀᴍ and ᴘᴍ with noon and midnight. Using ᴀᴍ and ᴘᴍ with 12 o’clock will always risk getting you in trouble. Don’t do it. Write noon and midnight if you are on a 12-hour clock, or avoid the whole mess entirely by using a 24-hour clock.

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What about midday? (Maybe it's a BrEng thing) I shall certainly be wary of writing 12 a.m./p.m from now on, you certainly know how to convince a person! –  Mari-Lou A Aug 12 '13 at 23:15
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I'm totally an Asian educated in the English manner by Anglo-Indian teachers. They taught me the following:

  1. The time just before sunrise - dawn
  2. The time before 12.00 - morning; the meal is called breakfast (taken before 1100,
    after that - lunch)
  3. The time after 12.00 and 15.00 - afternoon; 12.00 exactly is NOON. - meal after 1100 until 1500 is lunch)
  4. Any thing, i.e., tea/coffee/any beaverage except hard drinks with snacks - tea (before 5.00 pm)
  5. The time between 5.00pm and 8.00pm - evening and the meal is dinner
  6. The time after 8.00pm is called night and any meals if taken at all is called supper) Now that they are dead and gone or if still alive they're not here in the country. So I can't verify with them.
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EDIT:

Part         Begin End   Meal             Greeting
-----------  ----- ----- ---------------- ---------------------
Early morning/
 wee hours    1:00  4:00                  Good morning
dawn          4:00  6:00                  Good morning
morning       6:00  9:00 breakfast        Good morning
Mid-morning   9:00 11:59 elevenses/
                         morning tea/
                         brunch           Good morning
noon         12:00 13:00 lunch            Good afternoon
afternoon    14:00 16:00 afternoon tea    Good afternoon
evening      16:00 21:00 tea/dinner       Good evening
night        21:00 23:59 supper           Good evening
mid-night    24:00  1:00                  Good evening           

Most of it is correct, here are a few suggestions:

"Good Evening" is used from 4 p.m. till even night. "Good night" as noted by yourself means to have a good night's sleep, so "Good Evening" is used instead.

"Evening" lasts from after Afternoon(4 p.m.) till after sunset, depending on where you live.

There is also "Dusk", which could be used for the time right after the sun goes beneath the horizon, and the sky is dim, but not dark.

EDIT:

"Morning" can also refer to the time after 1.00 a.m. onwards, but Dawn can only be used for just before and during the sunrise, and a little after.

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1  
I'd add that morning is often used from midnight to midday. Essentially, 1am can be read 1 o'clock in the morning. Midnight is exactly 12pm or 0am, same as midday is exactly 12am or 0pm. Although all this names are quite arbitrary and don't have established timeframes. –  Philoto Jun 4 '11 at 6:09
    
Thanks! I'll edit my answer. –  Thursagen Jun 4 '11 at 6:09
    
Early morning can also refer to the dawn hours. You can say wee hours for specifically predawn, though. Oh, and don't forget about brunch. –  Jon Purdy Jun 4 '11 at 7:45
    
I'm getting some great ideas here! Thanks ! –  Thursagen Jun 4 '11 at 8:35
3  
Noon is 12:00 exactly. I think this quite is important. –  z7sg Ѫ Jun 4 '11 at 11:12
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I would call the time around 9-11am late morning. The meal is morning tea.

Additionally, the name for some meals varies around the world. In Australia, we would call the evening meal dinner or tea. Supper refers to a snack had late in the evening, before bed (what you have called night time snack in your table). In the UK (and please, any English correct me if I have this wrong!) dinner refers to the midday meal, and tea to the evening meal.

Great question, by the way. I'd never tried to think about this in such a rigid way before!

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I'm not an English, but I was taught that in UK dinner is around 6pm-7pm and supper, if any, late in the evening. Actually it was more like breakfast 7am-8am, lunch around midday, then traditional 5 o'clock tea, dinner and probably supper. –  Philoto Jun 4 '11 at 7:02
    
Sounds like what we do in Australia. –  Loquacity Jun 4 '11 at 9:15
5  
As an Englishman, I can say that names of meals are too complicated to summarize. Which meal you call 'dinner', and which 'tea', is affected by your upbringing, which county you are in, and your social aspirations. As Henry Higgins said "An Englishman only has to open his mouth to make some other Englishman despise him." –  TimLymington Jun 4 '11 at 11:47
    
Thanks for that Tim. You're echoing my thoughts exactly: this is a really hard topic to quantify so rigidly, and it only gets murkier the more you think about it. –  Loquacity Jun 4 '11 at 15:54
    
The tea drunk around 11 am (when lunch is at 1 pm) is sometimes called elevenses as opposed to morning tea which is drunk with breakfast. –  Dilip Sarwate Aug 19 '13 at 13:02
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In my experience, dawn is usually restricted to the time right around sunrise. The time between about 4 and 6 is often called early morning (and any time before that is "the middle of the night").

Also, the word supper is a bit of a regionalism (to me it's most familiar as a word used in parts of the Midwestern United States, although I think it's used in other parts of the US and other English-speaking countries as well). The more widely used word for the evening meal is dinner.

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