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“Good night” or “good evening”?

I am in the process of creating a software application which displays a greeting to users based on the time of day. I have come to a blank on what to display to the user when it is late at night. 'Good night, [user's name]' just doesn't seem right.

So, what is an appropriate greeting to use at night time?

  • 1
    Why don't you just use 'hello' which works for any time of day.
    – Mitch
    Jan 21, 2013 at 15:14
  • 1
    @Mitch You're not a Microsoft engineer by any chance are you? Jan 21, 2013 at 15:57

5 Answers 5


Good night is used only to bid someone farewell. The relevant greeting is Good evening.

  • Thanks for your answer Barrie. While this is what I currently have in place, it does't feel right to greet someone with Good evening at a time such as 11.45PM.
    – DaveE
    Jan 21, 2013 at 11:45
  • I know, but there's really no alternative. It would be even more difficult after midnight. About the only greetings that will serve at any time are Hello and Hi. Jan 21, 2013 at 11:52
  • You can use "good morning" after midnight, but that is sometimes used to sardonically or sarcastically address that fact that one is up at such a late hour, so it can be taken wrong.
    – Jon Hanna
    Jan 21, 2013 at 12:09

"Good night" as a greeting was once a feature found almost exclusively in Ireland. In James Joyce's "The Dead", for example, it is used both as greeting:

—O, Mr Conroy, said Lily to Gabriel when she opened the door for him, Miss Kate and Miss Julia thought you were never coming. Good night, Mrs Conroy.

And as a farewell:

—Well, good night, Aunt Kate, and thanks for the pleasant evening.

I suspect, but do not know, that this was a retention of something that died out elsewhere sooner than in Ireland.

In any case, it has mostly died out here too. It may be heard from an older generation, and perhaps lingers in some regions, but my generation (mid 30s) wouldn't use it either in the region I grew up, nor where I now live.

"Good evening" would be the more normal night-time greeting.

The only logical explanation I can think of for our no longer using "good night" in this way, is that it is so often said to someone about to retire to bed, that it was hence used more often as a farewell and then came to have only this meaning. The other forms, after all, would be more often used as a greeting than a farewell, though historically that was not the case.


You don’t have to stick to established customs if your context doesn’t warrant it. English is a living, evolving language and it’s not static.

Sometimes you have to think a little laterally to fulfill a requirement where one doesn’t currently exist, but context is everything, only you know the context in which this is being used. If you don’t feel good night or good evening are appropriate, create something that is.

As a suggestion:

Greetings night owl.

From Oxford English Dictionary:

night owl, n

A person who is up or active late at night.

This is just a suggestion, I’m sure there are others that may fit your needs better, but don’t be afraid of breaking established customs.


Such a feature would normally not be implemented due to the amount of time that could be spent on it and still no guarantee it will always be right. It makes sense to omit a feature of little if any value which could backfire sometimes. For example, they may be travelling with their mobile device and haven't adjusted time zone. Time better spent making sure your site appears well on different desktop and mobile devices.

All systems I've ever known shy away from this kind of thing. Even greetings themselves are sometimes a step too far for users' liking.

If you must have a time-of-day salutation, being sure you read client time adjusted for timezone and daylight savings: good morning; good afternoon; good evening (until 10pm) and a plain hello other times.


The word vanakkam used in the Tamil language in India to greet at any time of the day or night will hold good universally.

  • You mean like "Hello"?
    – Jon Hanna
    Jan 21, 2013 at 14:59
  • I think it's safe to say it will not, as a matter of fact, "hold good universally" in English.
    – RegDwigнt
    Jan 21, 2013 at 14:59

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