I've been working on a book about Idioms & Phrasal verbs.

As I was working, I came across the following definition for the phrase a night out: An evening you spend out of the house enjoying yourself (also a day out)

I made some research from which I got the following definition of a day out: A day where you go out somewhere for fun or enjoyment - macmillan dictionary

From the same dictionary, day is defined as one of the periods of time that a week is divided is divided into, equal to 24 hours. Now from cambridge dictionary, we get new datum: A period of 24 hours, especially from twelve o'clock one night to twelve o'clock next night.

I've read some examples from the following dictionaries too: https://www.ldoceonline.com/dictionary/day-out and https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/us/definition/english/day-out

They do not specify whether it's all day long or a specific period of the day. Thus the definition given in the book I'm reading is wrong, isn't?

  • 2
    Whatever the definition of day (12 or 24 hours) “a day out” is not the same as “a night out.”
    – user 66974
    Commented Jan 3, 2021 at 19:05
  • 2
    'A day out' means 'an outing taking up a considerable portion of a day'. It is not defined in duration (within the restrictions that it doesn't include an overnight stay and goes over midday, taking up at least several hours). perhaps just a drive or picnic. 'A night out' similarly refers to a visit ... to the opera, a restaurant, a party, the cinema and so on. Probably not starting before 5 ... 6 - 7, but possibly lasting into the small hours of the morning, and almost always including one or more forms of organised entertainment. Bare 'day' and 'night' might be misleading with these terms. Commented Jan 3, 2021 at 19:21
  • Thank you. It's clear now.
    – Nameless
    Commented Jan 3, 2021 at 19:28
  • In most contexts "a day out" means 24 hours later.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jan 3, 2021 at 19:30
  • 1
    And then there’s: Your brother is driving here from the east coast but he’s still two days out, so we can spend the day out and even go for a night out without worrying that he’ll arrive while we’re not home.
    – Jim
    Commented Jan 4, 2021 at 6:17

1 Answer 1


By definition, an idiom's meaning cannot be found by literally interpreting every word:

  1. [countable] a group of words whose meaning is different from the meanings of the individual words

So while these idioms are pretty close to their literal meanings, trying to understand the difference by pinning down the "correct" definition of day is not going to help.

The primary difference is that a "night out" refers to only to evening or night time, and thus also to activities that one does in an evening.

​an evening that you spend enjoying yourself away from home

Whereas a day out refers to spending most of "a day" doing something enjoyable away from, often a trip somewhere specific (the beach, the country, another) as noted in the examples you already linked.

Evening/night time activities tend to be things like going to dinner, a movie, a play, a bar, a club, etc. See the McMillian definition:

  1. an evening when you go out to a cinema, theatre, party etc

In summary, some major differences:

  1. The type of activity (going to the beach on a day out vs. going to a play on a night out)
  2. The time of day and, to a lesser extent, duration: a day out usually starts during daylight hours and lasts 5-8 hours; a night out referring to the evening (after 4pm) and may be shorter (2 hours).

I'd say that if you stopped by a nearby beach for 30 minutes, you wouldn't call it a day out (or night out), regardless of when it happened. If you go to the beach in the evening for a bonfire party with friends, that could be considered a night out. If you went for a picnic during the day with family, that would be a day out.

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