AskDefine | Define midnight

Dictionary Definition

midnight n : 12 o'clock at night; the middle of the night; "young children should not be allowed to stay up until midnight"

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. The middle of the night; 12:00 am; On a 12-hour clock, 12:00 at night; on a 24-hour clock, 00:00.
    • "The Highwayman" by Alfred Noyes
"She twisted her hands behind her;
but all the knots held good!
She writhed her hands till her fingers were wet with sweat or blood!
They stretched and strained in the darkness,
and the hours crawled by like years,
Till, now, on the stroke of midnight,
Cold, on the stroke of midnight,
The tip of one finger touched it! The trigger at least was hers!


  • Albanian: mesnatë g Albanian
  • Aymara: chika aruma
  • Bosnian: ponoć
  • Breton: hanternoz
  • Bulgarian: полунощ
  • Czech: půlnoc
  • Danish: midnat
  • Dutch: middernacht
  • Esperanto: noktmezo
  • Estonian: kesköö
  • Ewe:
  • Finnish: keskiyö
  • French: minuit
  • German: Mitternacht
  • Guarani: pyharepyte
  • Hindi: आधी रात (ādhī rāt)
  • Hungarian: éjfél
  • Ido: nokto-mezo
  • Indonesian: tengah malam
  • Interlingua: medienocte
  • Italian: mezzanotte
  • Japanese: 深夜, 真夜中
  • Korean: 한밤중 [-中] (hanbam)
  • Kurdish:
  • Lithuanian: vidurnaktis
  • Lojban: ctemidju
  • Maltese: nofsillejl
  • Northern Sami:
  • Polish: północ
  • Portuguese: meia-noite
  • Russian: полночь
  • Serbian:
    Cyrillic: поноћ
    Roman: ponoć
  • Slovak: polnoc
  • Slovene: polnoč
  • Spanish: medianoche
  • Swedish: midnatt
  • Tagalog: hating gabi
  • Turkish: gece yarısı
  • Urdu: ادھی رات

See also

Extensive Definition

Midnight is, literally, "the middle of the night." In most systems it is when one day ends and the next begins: when the date changes. Originally midnight was halfway between sunset and dawn, varying according to the seasons.
Solar midnight is that time opposite of solar noon, when the sun is closest to nadir and the night is equi-distant from dusk and dawn. Due to the advent of time zones, which makes time identical across a range of meridians, and daylight saving time it rarely coincides with midnight on a clock, but can be computed on a number of websites that perform solar time calculations. Solar midnight is dependent on longitude, latitude, altitude, and time of the year rather than on a time zone.

Start and end of day

Midnight marks the beginning and ending of each day in civil time throughout the world. It is the dividing point between one day and another.
With 12-hour time notation, most authorities recommend avoiding confusion by using "midnight", "12 midnight", or "12:00 midnight".
Digital clocks and computers appear to show 12 a.m. for midnight. While that phrase may be used practically, it helps to understand that any particular time is actually an instant. The "a.m." shown on clock displays refers to the 12-hour period following the instant of midnight, not to the instant itself. In other words, 11:59 p.m. shows until midnight; at the instant of midnight it flips to 12:00. Simultaneously, the p.m. flips to a.m., though, strictly speaking, a.m. applies not to the instant of midnight which separates p.m. and a.m.
In 24-hour time notation, "00:00" and "00:00:00" refer to midnight at the start of a given date. Some styles allow 24:00 for the end of a day. Noon is 12:00:00.
While computers and digital clocks display "12:00 a.m." and "12:00 p.m.", those notations provide no clear and unambiguous way to distinguish between midnight and noon. It is actually improper to use "a.m." and "p.m." when referring to 12:00. The abbreviation a.m. stands for ante meridiem or before noon and p.m. stands for post meridiem or after noon. Since noon is neither after noon or before noon, neither abbreviation is correct (although the length of the error is determined by the smallest unit of time — 12:00:01 p.m. would be correctly notated). Similarly, midnight is both twelve hours before as well as twelve hours after noon, so both are ambiguous as to the date intended.
The most common ways to represent these times are, (a) to use a 24-hour clock (00:00 and 12:00, 24:00), (b) to use "12 noon" or "12 midnight", although unless the person is referring to a general time and not a specific day, "12 midnight" is still ambiguous, (c) to specify it between two successive days or dates (Midnight Saturday/Sunday or Midnight December 14/15), and (d) to use "12:01 a.m." or "11:59 p.m." This final usage is common in the travel industry, especially train and plane schedules, to avoid confusion as to passengers' schedules. The U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual recommends the opposite, that noon is 12 a.m. and midnight is 12 p.m.
Some religious calendars continue to begin the day at another time — for example, at dusk in the Hebrew calendar and the Islamic calendar.

Cultural meanings

In traditional magical thinking, "midnight" refers to solar midnight, which is opposite solar noon. These form an axis linking the mundane world with otherworlds by being the apogee of darkness and the perigee of light. Thus, traditional midnight is associated with chaos, death, underworld and mystery. It was seen as a moment when sacrum manifests itself and epiphanies were most likely. The epiphanies expected were those associated with darkness, so it was thought that at midnight, visitation from spirits, ghosts, demons and devils were common.
All the supernatural creatures of darkness — reminiscent of feared nocturnal predators — were believed to haunt the night, their potency greatest at its central point, midnight. According to Slavic folklore, midnight was time when strzygas rose from graves to suck the blood of mortals, zmoras assailed the sleeping to steal their breath, and devils came for sinners. Polish Jews believed that it was the time when dybbuks possessed people, causing insanity.
As night's attributes are chaos and primordiality, all the acts of summoning from otherworlds were easiest to perform at the culmination of the night. Supernatural entities like demons and devils universally answered a human call — be it death wish, curse of famine, prostration or pact with the devil. All the acts of sorcery, witchcraft, necromancy were easiest then. While some beliefs stated that elaborate rituals were needed, some other folklore ascribed unholy power to such simple acts as calling the devil at crossroads at midnight. Even peeking into a mirror at night (without a reliable clock one could never be certain what time it was) was dangerous, as the devil himself could have looked back.
Midnight was also the time to gather the ingredients used in magical acts done at other times, so various herbs were thought to be most potent when harvested at midnight.
In Christian folklore, because Jesus had been born in a stable, animals could speak at the midnight between Christmas Eve and Christmas.
Midnight as time also appears in fairy tales like Cinderella in which a task must be completed by then.
A horse named Midnight finished sixteenth of twenty-three to complete the 1847 Grand National Steeplechase at Aintree.
midnight in Aymara: Chika aruma
midnight in Czech: Půlnoc
midnight in Danish: Midnat
midnight in German: Mitternacht
midnight in Estonian: Kesköö
midnight in Spanish: Medianoche
midnight in Esperanto: Noktomezo
midnight in French: Minuit
midnight in Korean: 한밤
midnight in Indonesian: Tengah malam
midnight in Lojban: ctemidju
midnight in Dutch: Middernacht
midnight in Japanese: 深夜
midnight in Norwegian: Midnatt
midnight in Polish: Północ (godzina 0:00)
midnight in Portuguese: Meia-noite
midnight in Quechua: Chawpi tuta
midnight in Russian: Полночь
midnight in Slovak: Polnoc
midnight in Slovenian: Polnoč
midnight in Finnish: Keskiyö
midnight in Swedish: Midnatt
midnight in Contenese: 半夜

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

all-night, atramentous, black, black as coal, black as ebony, black as ink, black as midnight, black as night, coal-black, coaly, dark, dark as night, dark as pitch, dead of night, deep black, ebony, hush of night, ink-black, inky, jetty, night, night-black, night-dark, night-fallen, nightlong, nightly, nighttime, nigrous, nocturnal, noonday night, pitch-black, pitch-dark, pitchy, raven, raven-black, sable, sloe, sloe-black, sloe-colored, tar-black, tarry
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