Would anyone happen to know where the terms for the units of time came from, and why? I know "minute," which also means something extremely small, comes from the latin meaning "small," but then why is it not the smallest unit of time?

Also, is there any relation between the time unit "second" and the ordinal number "second"?

  • 1
    Can you show us what research you've done on the words so far? – MrHen Oct 30 '13 at 4:00
  • @حىىىى Try this site: etymonline.com – Jim Oct 30 '13 at 4:47
  • Hour comes from the word whore (originated from Latin hora and trickled thro various romance languages) because one hour is about the time spent on a temple priestess when a devout man pays an ancient Roman pagan temple prostitute to have fertility rites with him. Horoscope also comes from the word hora. – Blessed Geek Oct 30 '13 at 11:46

"Hour" comes from Old French "hore", 1/12 of a day. "Minute", from Latin "minuta", "small" (think of it pronounced as "mine-yute"). "Second" is more complicated:

"Medieval Latin secunda, short for "secunda pars minuta" - "second diminished part," the result of the second division of the hour by sixty (the first being the "prime minute," now called the minute)"

Note that angular measure has degrees, minutes (1/60 of a degree) and seconds (1/60 of a minute). They usually write "minutes of arc" and "seconds of arc" so as not to confuse them with the time units.

There could be a connection between the time "second" and the ordinal "second", from the "second diminished part" (in the quote above).

The ordinal "second" comes from Latin "secundus: following, next in time or order"

| improve this answer | |
  • 2
    +1. Where did you get this from pal? Pls share the reference. – VijayaRagavan Oct 30 '13 at 4:29
  • There's an online etymology dictionary at etymonline.com/index.php – ZZMike Oct 31 '13 at 4:23
  • 1
    "hour" comes from French but even further in time from Latin "hora" and from Greek "hora" ("ώρα"). – ypercubeᵀᴹ Jun 30 '15 at 17:06

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.