The curious expression graveyard slot has two main connotations:

  • (television) the hours from late night until early morning when the number of people watching television is at its lowest. (Collins)


  • Speakers and trainers often refer to the “graveyard slot”. By this they usually mean the first session after lunch when people are presumed to be a bit sleepy after eating.(alanmatthewstraining.com)

According to Ngram the expression is from the early '70s

There is an earlier and similar expression graveyard shift/watch which means:

  • The Graveyard Shift, or Graveyard Watch, was the name coined for the work shift of the early morning, typically midnight until 8am. The name originated in the USA at the latter end of the 1800s.

  • There's no evidence at all that it had anything directly to do with watching over graveyards, merely that the shifts took place in the middle of the night, when the ambience was quiet and lonely. (The Phrase Finder)


  • is there any evidence (apart from the obvious similarities) that "graveyard slot" derives from "graveyard shift"?

  • was the saying "graveyard slot" an AmE originally?

  • is it now mainly a BrE expression as Ngram appears to suggest?

  • 2
    Isn't this a near exact duplicate of another question from about 3 days back???
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jun 1, 2016 at 0:03
  • @HotLicks - no this is not a duplicate.
    – user66974
    Commented Jun 1, 2016 at 5:10
  • Was the other one yours? Why was it deleted?
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jun 1, 2016 at 11:58
  • This is the only question of its kind in the site. Do you have an answer?
    – user66974
    Commented Jun 1, 2016 at 12:02
  • I know it's the only one, as do you. The other one was deleted for some reason.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jun 1, 2016 at 12:10

1 Answer 1


The term "graveyard slot," with the television scheduling meaning, appeared at least as early as 1968, in this piece from the entertainment section of The Chicago Tribune. This article contained no mention of "graveyard shift" or any other explanation of the term, though a casual reader could probably understand it through context if it was a figurative use.

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Whether or not "graveyard slot" derives from "graveyard shift," the two have been used in similar ways. In the Asheville Citizen-Times, a feature piece on a late night DJ started with the headline:

Fred Brown: Bringing Life to the Graveyard Shift

In the content, the piece uses the term "graveyard slot," with a definition included.

A staffer at top-rated WWNC-AM since 1969, he's worked radio's most challenging shift for almost three years -- the graveyard slot, 11 p.m.-5:30 a.m., five nights (or mornings) a week.

The headline might have used "graveyard shift" because it was a more prevalent term and easier to understand for casual readers, or because Fred Brown was working the "graveyard shift," while filling the "graveyard slot."

Either way, other sources appear to use "graveyard shift" with a television meaning, so to that extent, both appear to be acceptable for describing television scheduling. This was done as early as 1972 in a widely syndicated piece by the Associated Press, retrieved here:

The show is NBC's brave new hour for insomniacs, students, people who leave work at midnight and other assorted night owls who heretorfore have made do with ancient film epics on television's graveyard shift.

So why would NBC schedule it for 10 p.m. EDT, the Saturday TV graveyard shift?

That hour is generally reserved for documentaries and reruns of the lame-duck "NBC Magazine," while young fans are asleep.

As early as 1962, the term "graveyard shift" was used referring to the late hours of radio reporting, which predates the uses of "graveyard slot" above.

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