Word for Wednesday: Noon

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For today’s Word for Wednesday, we’re going to look at one of the English language’s weird and wonderful discrepancies. The word in question: noon

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, noon refers to twelve o’clock in the middle of the day.

Noon comes from the Old English ‘non’ which has been used in English since the mid-twelfth century. But the word ‘non’ – and here’s where it gets strange – comes from the Latin ‘nona hora’ meaning ‘ninth hour’ (in reference to the ninth hour after sunrise). Before the twelfth century, the word was used in reference to middle of the afternoon – the ninth hour, so around three o’clock. ‘Nona hora’ comes ‘novem’ which means 'nine' and is also the root of another English language discrepancy

The reason for the change in unclear, but suggestions include unreliable timekeeping; the changing hours of daylight during different seasons; and the secular midday meal moving forward. 

You can learn the English words for different times of day here – if you click on the football icon above the list you can even practise them using our Against the Clock game!


Sources: The Online Etymology Dictionary

29 Jan 2020
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