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The period between sunset and noon is called "morning", between noon and sunset is "afternoon". Is there a term for the period between midnight and sunrise?

Edit/Clarification: Wikipedia defines night as "the period of time between the sunset and the sunrise when the Sun is below the horizon", and I think most people would agree (please correct me if I'm wrong). So, "night" is not the answer I'm looking for. Is there a term specifically for the period between midnight (00:00) and sunrise, excluding the period between sunset and midnight?

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You might be interested in the discussion going on about twilight. –  JLG Jun 3 '12 at 14:19
    
It can depend on your sleep schedule. If you go to bed after midnight, it can be called 'night'. If you get up well before dawn, it can be called 'early morning'. –  Mitch Jun 3 '12 at 14:55
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@netvope Are you perhaps coming from another language where such a specific distinction exists? Spanish for example has madrugada, for the dark hours of the morning before cock-crow. So you get a sort of progression through madrugada, mañana, día, tarde, noche. You might say you got up at 4am not 4pm by saying you arose “a las cuatro de la madrugada, no de la tarde”. No such distinction exists in English. Cultural standards for demarcating “morning” and “afternoon” actually vary a great deal around the world, so if you are coming from another culture, these may not exactly map to English. –  tchrist Jun 3 '12 at 16:07
    
    
One term I've heard used (not formal enough to give as an answer) is "stupid o'clock". –  neil Jun 4 '12 at 12:45

6 Answers 6

up vote 20 down vote accepted

The term you are probably looking for is the small hours.

Collins defines this term as "the early hours of the morning, after midnight and before dawn."

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...or 'wee hours'. –  Mitch Jun 3 '12 at 14:52
    
Do the wee small hours last until dawn? I understand them to be 1, 2, maybe 3am and then they are no longer 'small'. –  Roaring Fish Jun 3 '12 at 15:22
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@Mitch The wee hours are the ones when incontinent drunks stumble back home in the dark. –  tchrist Jun 3 '12 at 15:55
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@Mitch On a related note, the OED entry for “small hours” gives “the early hours after midnight denoted by the small numbers, one, two, etc.” Interestingly, the 1st citation is from Charles Dickens in 1836: “He invited friends home, who used to come at ten o'clock, and begin to get happy about the small hours.” The 2nd citation includes “wee” in it, and is obviously related to libatious revelry :) — from Farrar in 1859: “Often would he be beguiled by his studies into the ‘wee small’ hours of night.” –  tchrist Jun 3 '12 at 15:58
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'wee', though in some contexts refers to urination, here is used in it's less vulgar meaning of simply 'small'. –  Mitch Jun 3 '12 at 16:57

In military (US) slang that period is referred to as "oh-dark hundred" or sometimes "zero-dark hundred". On the 24-hour clock the hours before 10 am start with a 0; so 1:00 am is 0100 and said as oh-one-hundred and so forth. Thus oh-dark hundred is anytime after midnight while it is still dark:

"The woke us up at oh-dark-hundred and ran us thru the obstacle course." Meaning they woke us up in the wee hours of the morning before daylight.

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That bit is called 'night'.

OED " the time between evening and morning."

http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/126965?rskey=JeRvu9&result=1#eid

Objectively, evening lasts until midnight, and morning begins at dawn. Subjectively, evening is between sunset and going to bed, night is while you sleep, and morning is when you wake up.

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I believe "night" normally include the period before midnight as well. Please see my edit. –  netvope Jun 3 '12 at 14:12
    
The OED says night is between evening and morning. It also says evening is "The close of the day; usually, the time from about sunset till bedtime." (oed.com/view/Entry/65266?rskey=oPhMtL&result=1#eid) In that sense it is as I said subjectively - that dark bit until you go to bed is evening, night is while you are asleep, and morning is when you wake up. If you met somebody at 11pm, would you greet them with "good evening" or "good night"? –  Roaring Fish Jun 3 '12 at 14:28
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In English, one can never greet someone with “good night”; it is only ever said in closing, never in greeting. –  tchrist Jun 3 '12 at 19:06
    
Exactly! Because it is evening (hence "good evening") until you go to bed, at which point you say "good night" as you take your leave. –  Roaring Fish Jun 4 '12 at 14:25

Short answer: No. There is no common English term for the dark hours of the day that's appropriate at 12:30 AM and not appropriate at 11:45 PM.

I'm not in the military, so I'm not an expert on "oh dark hundred", but I have heard the term (and the term "oh dark thirty" which means exactly the same thing) on many occasions and would consider it inappropriate for 12:30 AM. It's closer to "unpleasantly early in the morning" than to a technical term meaning "the dark hours after midnight".

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Morning changes to afternoon at 12:00 pm. Afternoon changes to evening when it starts getting dark. Evening changes to night more or less at bedtime. Night changes to morning at sunrise. This cycle keeps repeating.

So, your answer is night.

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Actually, this isn’t really right. Things are not so clinical. It doesn’t need to be getting dark for it to be evening. It’s certainly evening not afternoon by 6 or 7 o’clock even if it won’t get dark till 10 or 11. And it is already morning by 12:01 am, whether it is dark or not. It doesn’t have to be light for it to be morning as more than it needs to be dark for it to be evening. It can be 2:30 in the afternoon, or in the morning. You can’t say 2:30 at night. –  tchrist Jun 3 '12 at 19:09
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OED says "The close of the day; usually, the time from about sunset till bedtime." so strictly speaking rudra is correct - evening is when it is getting dark. Subjectively though, I can accept that most people would say "nine o'clock in the evening" even if sunset wasn't until 10 o'clock, through a feeling that it really should be dark, and it is kind of strange that it isn't. –  Roaring Fish Jun 4 '12 at 14:32

Perhaps dawn is what you are looking for?

It's the period after night, and just before sunrise, the beginning of morning twilight. It's recognized by the presence of weak sunlight, when the sun is still below horizon.

There are also more technical definitions of dawn, available at Wikipedia.

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Dawn is certainly part of the period between midnight and sunrise, but only a small part of it. –  tchrist Jun 3 '12 at 19:07
    
Dawn is between first-light and sunrise. –  Hand-E-Food Jun 3 '12 at 23:03

protected by RegDwigнt Oct 1 '12 at 13:50

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