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What difference has "call it the night" and "call it a night"?

According to the google search the both expressions are correct.

call it the night: 20,800,000 hits
call it a night: 9,150,000 hits

Maybe the meaning are same?

  • 'Call it a night' is an idiom. 'Call it the night' is not an idiom. – user6951 Jan 22 '15 at 14:35
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The COCA corpus has 95 results for "call it a night" and only 1 for "call it the night", and that single result is:

..if our language is afflicted by a hole right at its center. Let's call it the night of language, the sleep of language.

You see, the meaning is not the same. In "call it a night" you do not specify the "night" too much, you only wish to say:

What we have on our hands is a completed night, now the only thing left to do is to go to bed.

On the other hand, when you use the you mean a night specific enough to take the definite article. In such a situation, I would think that the "night" has been previously mentioned by you, or I will await some "specifying information" in the sentence. In the COCA example, the author refers to some specific period in time when "language sleeps". The author uses an "of-phrase", and this makes the word "night" more definite.


Here's a nice foray into the etymology of call it a day, kudos to Man From India (see his comments below my post):

Stop a particular activity for the rest of the day, as in It's past five o'clock so let's call it a day. Similarly, call it a night means "to stop something for the rest of the night," as in One more hand of bridge and then let's call it a night. The original phrase was call it half a day, first recorded in 1838, which referred to leaving one's place of employment before the work day was over. The first recorded use of call it a day was in 1919, and of call it a night in 1938. (The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.)

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    Copperkettle, does "call it a night" has anything to do with "call it a day"? I mean the set phrase is "call it a day", I think "call it a night" is just a variant of the set phrase, written along the same line. – Man_From_India Jan 22 '15 at 7:27
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    @Man_From_India - my guess is that these phrases are almost synonymous. "A night" phrase probably is used for moments that are "further into the night". Maybe when you finish your day work it's "time to call it a day", and then you finish your partying afterwards, it's "time to call it a night". – CowperKettle Jan 22 '15 at 7:31
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    Not always true. If someone wants to retire, he can say it's time for me to call it a day. So we can say "call it a day" anytime regardless of the time of the day or night :) (in my opinion). – Man_From_India Jan 22 '15 at 7:34
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    I also believe the same in case of that "night" one :) – Man_From_India Jan 22 '15 at 7:52
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    This explains. "call it a day" can mean a day's work, or may mean "to stop doing what one was doing regardless of the time". This links also talks about "call it a night" idioms.thefreedictionary.com/call+it+a+day – Man_From_India Jan 22 '15 at 7:58

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