Is 'in the middle of the night' different from 'midnight' in the sense that:

the former refers to unspecific late time in the night,

and the latter refers to definite time; midnight = 12am?

Am I right? Are there any other differences?

Thanks in advance.

1 Answer 1


We tend to use "the middle of the night" to refer to, just as you guessed, a general time (or time period) during the part of the night where most people are probably asleep.

Another phrase you might hear is "in the dead of night," with "dead" referring to the stillness and quietness at that time.

Midnight is then, simply, 12am.

  • One more thing please; when we say that 'midnight is 12am' and 'midday is 12pm', does it mean exactly 12.00? Is 12.15, 12.20, 12.35 not considered midnight or midday?
    – Laith Leo
    Nov 13, 2018 at 9:55
  • I call 12:00 pm "noon" or "midday".
    – shin
    Nov 13, 2018 at 10:07
  • @LaithLeo You can, of course, refer to any time vaguely. "Midnight" might not be exactly 12:00:00am. But I wouldn't expect to hear someone refer to "midnight" if they meant 1am or similar. Phrases like "some time around midnight" give you more leeway.
    – Dan
    Nov 13, 2018 at 10:11
  • I'm not sure of your explanation for dead of night. I think it could be related to how "dead" is used in dead center.
    – TimR
    Nov 13, 2018 at 12:08
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo I'm not convinced by an adverb origin either, though. The dictionary seems to define "dead" as a separate noun, though doesn't seem to reveal its specific origin. It's from as far back as at least the 1500s as a phrase, and seems literary in origin. As a result, perhaps we can only surmise what the author was implying.
    – Dan
    Nov 13, 2018 at 13:25

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