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I was thinking that there should be a word for a 60th of a second, is there?

Our hours and minutes are split into 60ths so it makes sense to me. Also, 60fps (frames per second) is a common framerate in game development.

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Frames is ambiguous: 29.96 fps drop frame NTSC, 30 nominal fps NTSC, 25 fps PAL & SECAM, 24 fps standard film... That's no way to tell time! –  James McLeod Dec 16 '11 at 3:15
    
@JamesMcLeod A frame is ambiguous? I know different things have different framerates, however isn't a frame a frame? I am referring to how common 60fps seems to appear in games. –  Annan Dec 16 '11 at 3:24
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A frame has a different duration in various contexts, so as a measure of time, no, I don't think a frame is a frame. You refer to 60 fps for game development, but my background is broadcast engineering, so I have rarely encountered that frame rate, and am more likely to think of 1/29.96th of a second instead of 1/60th. –  James McLeod Dec 16 '11 at 3:27
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There's nothing special about 60 fps in game development, except that most monitors have a 60 Hz refresh rate so framerates above 60 fps are not visible. In practice, framerates are all over the map depending on settings, resolution, graphics card power etc., and may vary from frame to frame depending on the complexity of the scene. As a unit of time, I think it leaves something to be desired :) –  j-g-faustus Dec 16 '11 at 13:11
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7 Answers 7

up vote 17 down vote accepted

You could call it a "third" if you wanted to. But, of course, it is not commonly used. Etymologically:

pars minuta prima, first diminished part (1/60 of an hour), was shortened to "minute"

pars minuta secunda, second diminished part (1/60 of that), was shortened to "second"

So how would you shorten the next in line, 1/60 of that?

Here we go:

In 1267, the medieval scientist Roger Bacon stated the times of full moons as a number of hours, minutes, seconds, thirds, and fourths (horae, minuta, secunda, tertia, and quarta) after noon on specified calendar dates.

[Wikipedia]

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+1 Wonderful point. I was sure it was a joke when I first read "third". Now I know. Thanks, @GEdgar. –  Kris Dec 16 '11 at 7:08
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+1. And interestingly Wikipedia continues: a third for 1⁄60 of a second remains in some languages, for example Polish tercja and Arabic ثالثة –  Hugo Dec 16 '11 at 16:34
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Minutes notated with a prime ', seconds with '', thirds with ''', fourths with '''' and so on. Something like 3 h 12' 48'' 21''' 54'''' And the numbers would have been in Roman Numerals, to boot. Such was calculation in Europe before decimals came in. –  GEdgar Dec 30 '11 at 15:30
    
Also remember that time measurement and angular/sun measurement were closely related for much of history. That is why angular units and time units are the same (and most instruments, until Bacon, could not measure things smaller than a second). –  tmarthal Jan 28 at 3:33
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The term jiffy was used on the Commodore 64 and the Vic 20 to stand for 1/60th of a second (although Wikipedia claims it was either 59.94 Hz or 50 Hz).

Tick has been used for the same purpose (basic unit of time) on other computers.

The Wiktionary page for jiffy shows the meaning as "A unit of time defined by the frequency of its [sic] basic timer; historically, and by convention, 0.01 seconds, but some operating systems use other values", and Wiktionary defines tick as "A jiffy (unit of time defined by basic timer frequency)".

In the U.S., one could reasonably use the "electronics" sense of jiffy, which is "The time between alternating current power cycles (1/60 or 1/50 of a second)", as a name for 1/60th of a second.

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I think yours and GEdgar's answers are equally good. Since yours is the higher rated I will accept his and upvote yours. –  Annan Dec 18 '11 at 12:36
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Tick is definitely common in the computer programming world. I assumed it came from the bigger world at large. Amongst all the other words suggested on this page, tick stands alone as being precise. It definitely means "1/60 of a second", nothing more, nothing less. hour > minute > second > tick. –  Basil Bourque Jan 28 at 2:29
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My best bet is with Jiffy, which is an informal term.

In electronics (electrical engineering), a jiffy is the time between alternating current power cycles,[2] 1/60 or 1/50 of a second in most building power supplies — see alternating current.

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jwpat7 already posted it while I was writing it :) –  Incognito Dec 16 '11 at 5:48
    
Back in the 1970's, I used a computer called a PDP-10, and on that system they measured time in jiffies, a jiffy being 1/60 of a second. This is the first time I've heard the term in 30-plus years. I'm amused to hear that it's still in use in some quarters. –  Jay Dec 16 '11 at 6:42
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A 60 sided 2D shape is a hexacontagon, and a 60 sided 3D object is a hexecontahedron. So, as deca- is x10 and deci is /10, we get hexecontisecond (or hexacontisecond). Unfortunately, no one will know what you're taking about.

A 60th of second is about 0.0166666667 seconds, or 16.6666667 milliseconds, or 17 ms.

You could also refer to it as 60 Herz or 60 Hz; meaning 60 times a second.

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Fractional seconds may be referred to as ticks, with duration either assumed from context, or explicitly given such as "60 ticks/second" or "50 ms ticks."

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There appears to be no such word; fractions of seconds are denoted, when necessary with terms like "millisecond" (0.001 seconds) and "microsecond" (0.000001 seconds).

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There are loads more, but femtoseconds and nanoseconds are fairly common, albeit quite brief. –  FumbleFingers Dec 16 '11 at 3:51
    
True, but even milliseconds is already an order of magnitude smaller than the duration the OP is seeking a term for. –  James McLeod Dec 16 '11 at 4:12
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In some programming languages 1/60th of a second is a 'Step'

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A step not a tick, eh? Really? Which ones, and why? Pardon me, but I find this strangely interesting, and I’m curious. Is this related to a 60 hz power cycle? The only time-related subsecond interval I know of with an odd name is jiffy. –  tchrist Apr 7 at 13:08
    
A tick is usually implementation dependent. Meaning my computer and your computer do not agree with each other about how long a tick is, much less every other computer. Regardless, this answer would be much improved by a citation for which programming languages use the step concept. –  Patrick M Apr 7 at 17:14
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