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I am a non-native English speaker. In my language, I could use the expression "moment zero," or "zero moment" to describe the very beginning of a process. I have googled this and it does not seem like something that English speakers would regularly use. (It has a reference to physics, when you describe the zero moment prior to setting a force in motion.) what would be a good equivalent in English? thanks so much for your input!

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    More specifics please. Some thoughts: initiation, start, time zero (or within scientific community, "at T zero"), "First,..."
    – Stu W
    Nov 14, 2015 at 23:04
  • "Zero Hour" is typically a scheduled start time for military operations, and is used to describe the beginning of an event in the past tense as in "at zero hour the ropes went out the doors and they rappelled into the compound" but since operations don't always go off as planned usages like "at zero +30 minutes, the birds were still circling, waiting for the go order" isn't uncommon. It would probably work for your use, but it doesn't denote the absolute moment at which something began, but at which it was intended to begin.
    – Misneac
    Nov 14, 2015 at 23:05
  • "Nascent moment" might work as well.
    – Misneac
    Nov 14, 2015 at 23:17
  • "Moment zero" isn't a bad term to use. It would be readily understood by most readers/listeners. Phrases like "from inception" or "from the outset" might also be used.
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 14, 2015 at 23:43
  • thank you! I think "time zero" is what I was looking for.
    – Gemma
    Nov 15, 2015 at 0:00

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The word zero is used in several terms of art in various fields. In physics and enginering, usually in the form time t=0. From Advanced Engineering Mathematics by Alan Jeffrey:

At time t = 0 a stretched string of length L, clamped at each end, starts from its equilibrium positionu(x,0) = 0 with the transverse speed ut(x, 0) = ksin(2πx/L). Use simple arguments to find its transverse displacement u(x, t) at any subsequent [time.]

The term moment in physics refers to the vector calculated by force times distance, so "moment zero" might be a distraction in this context.

Zero hour (also known as H hour), as has been noted, is the military jargon for planned start of some activity. For the invasion of Europe on June 6, 1944, this was 0640 hours.

In epidemiological terms, patient zero is the index case, i.e., the first person to come down with the disease in an epidemic.

If you plan to use your term in a specific and technical sense, then pairing a word with zero might be useful. Otherwise, you might be better off with a synonym for beginning.

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Here are my favourites:

Inception: the establishment or starting point of an institution or activity: she has been on the board since its inception two years ago.

Genesis: the origin or mode of formation of something: this tale had its genesis in fireside stories.

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Sometimes we use the term square one, but usually only when returning to the start of a process or the ground state ('back to square one').

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