Does "I am getting cold as the night is drawing on" means

-"I am getting cold as the night is starting" or

-"I am getting cold as the night is finishing"?

Does "the night is drawing on" mean the night is coming to the end or the beginning?

  • 1
    Many years ago, someone started a question on ELU with the words The idiom draw on as I know has many definitions. Two of which are to approach and to pass gradually. Fortunately the context will nearly always make it obvious which meaning applies (all the audience need to know is whether it's currently "night" or not). Note that Night is drawing on would never mean Night is nearly over - but it might mean something like This is turning into a long night; perhaps we should think about going to bed soon. Oct 23, 2021 at 15:47
  • I would naturally understand it as meaning the night is finishing. For the first meaning I would use "night draws near".
    – Peter
    Oct 24, 2021 at 2:03

2 Answers 2


It probably means that it will soon be night (understanding as to mean because). See this.

However, while looking for a definition as proof of my interpretation I also found this - definition 2. Oddly, Collins only gives the 'approach' meaning under American English, though I'm perfectly familiar with it as a British person. Indeed, it's the basis of a famous old joke.

  • As an American, I would definitely interpret "night draws on" to mean "the night [which it currently is] is stretching on."
    – randomhead
    Oct 23, 2021 at 14:43
  • So in American English, it means "it is getting to the beginning of the night" and "in British English, it means "it is getting to the end of the night"?
    – Tom
    Oct 23, 2021 at 15:02
  • Tom - So the dictionaries seem to say - but that surprises me because I had always understood "Winter draws on" to mean "Winter will soon be here". Oct 23, 2021 at 15:19
  • @Tom, from what I see in Kate's answer, you have it exactly backward.
    – randomhead
    Oct 23, 2021 at 15:56
  • In BrE and AmE, as the night is drawing on (draws near, too) = beginning. It is not dragging on for me.
    – Lambie
    Oct 23, 2021 at 16:29

"the night is drawing on" is a fixed phrase. It can mean "The night is getting near" or "it is getting dark" or it can mean "A significant part o the night has passed", probably with an implication that the night is seeming long to the speaker. Related to this second usage, it can also mean that so much of the night has passed, that the end of the night is approaching. This uses the phrasal verb "draw on", which has several senses, one of which is "approach".


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