small hours

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From the small number used to identify such hours (e.g. 1 o'clock, 2 o'clock).


small hours pl (plural only)

  1. The very early morning, just after midnight, when most people are asleep.
    • 1962 April, J. N. Faulkner, “Summer Saturday at Waterloo”, in Modern Railways, page 265:
      Then follows a quiet period during the small hours, marked by the departure of the other newspaper trains and some van trains, and by the arrival of the mail train from Weymouth.
    • 2017 June 26, Alexis Petridis, “Glastonbury 2017 verdict: Radiohead, Foo Fighters, Lorde, Stormzy and more”, in the Guardian[1]:
      ...the writer conjured up a dystopian fantasy more berserk than anything you might find yourself listening to in the small hours at the Stone Circle.

Usage notes[edit]

Almost always used with the definite article (the small hours), or occasionally with a demonstrative adjective (these small hours, those small hours).