Etymology
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hour (n.)

c. 1200, "divine office prescribed for each of the seven canonical hours; the daily service at the canonical hours;" c. 1300, "time of day appointed for prayer, one of the seven canonical hours," from Old French ore, hore "canonical hour; one-twelfth of a day" (sunrise to sunset), from Latin hora "an hour;" poetically "time of year, season," from Greek hōra a word used to indicate any limited time within a year, month, or day (from PIE *yor-a-, from root *yer- "year, season;" see year).

Church sense is oldest in English. Meaning "one of the 24 equal parts of a natural solar day (time from one sunrise to the next), equal hour; definite time of day or night reckoned in equal hours," and that of "one of the 12 equal parts of an artificial day (sunrise to sunset) or night, varying in duration according to the season; definite time of day or night reckoned in unequal hours" are from late 14c. In the Middle Ages the planets were held to rule over the unequal hours. As late as 16c. distinction sometimes was made in English between temporary (unequal) hours and sidereal (equal) ones. Meaning "time of a particular happening; the time for a given activity" (as in hour of death) is mid-14c.

The h- has persisted in this word despite not being pronounced since Roman times. Replaced Old English tid, literally "time" (see tide (n.)) and stund "period of time, point of time, hour," from Proto-Germanic *stundo (compare German Stunde "hour"), which is of uncertain origin. German Uhr likewise is from French.

Greek hora could mean "a season; 'the season' (spring or summer)." In classical times it sometimes meant "a part of the day," such as morning, evening, noon, night. The Greek astronomers apparently borrowed the notion of dividing the day into twelve parts (mentioned in Herodotus) from the Babylonians. Night continued to be divided into four watches (see watch (n.)); but because the amount of daylight changed throughout the year, the hours were not fixed or of equal length.

As a measure of distance ("the distance that can be covered in an hour") it is recorded from 1785. At all hours "at all times" is from early 15c. For small hours (those with low numbers) see wee (adj.).

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half-hour (n.)
"period of thirty minutes," early 15c., from half + hour. Related: Half-hourly.
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hourlong (adj.)
also hour-long, 1803, from hour + long (adj.).
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hourly (adv.)
late 15c., "every hour;" as an adjective, 1510s, "happening or done every hour," from hour + -ly.
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horometry (n.)

"art of the measurement of time," 1560s, from Greek hōra "any time or period" (see hour) + -metry "a measuring of." Related: Horometrical; horometer.

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horologer (n.)

late 14c., "clock-maker," via Latin from Greek hōrologe "clock, timepiece, instrument for measuring the hours of a day," from hōrologos "telling the hour," from hōra "hour" (see hour) on model of astrologer, etc. Hence also obsolete English horologe "timepiece, sundial, hourglass, clock, cock" (late 14c.) and the old expression the devil in the horologe for "mischief in an orderly system" (17c.).

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hourglass (n.)

also hour-glass, instrument for measuring time, 1510s, from hour + glass (n.). Used 19c. in a variety of technical and scientific senses to describe the shape; in reference to women's torsos by 1897.

Men condemn corsets in the abstract, and are sometimes brave enough to insist that the women of their households shall be emancipated from them; and yet their eyes have been so generally educated to the approval of the small waist, and the hourglass figure, that they often hinder women who seek a hygienic style of dress. [Mary Ashton Rice Livermore, "The Story of My Life," 1898]
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horology (n.)

science of time, 1752, a modern word coined from Greek hōra "hour; part of the day; any period of time" (see hour) + -logy. "The term horology is at present more particularly confined to the principles upon which the art of making clocks and watches is established" [American edition of the "British Encyclopedia," Philadelphia, 1819]. Earlier in English it meant "clock, clock dial" (c. 1500), in which sense it represents Latin horologium "instrument for telling the hour" (in Medieval Latin, "a clock"), from Greek hōrologion "instrument for telling the hour" (a sundial, water-clock, etc.), from hōrologos "telling the hour." Related: Horologist (1795); horological (1590s). Horologiography (1630s) is the art or study of watches and timepieces.

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horoscope (n.)

"observation or diagram of the heavens, showing the positions of planets, on any given day, used by astrologers," mid-16c., from French horoscope, from Latin horoscopum/horoscopus, from Greek hōroskopos "nativity, horoscope," also "one who casts a horoscope, one who observes the hour of a birth," from hōra "hour; season; period of time" (see hour) + skopos "watcher; what is watched" (from PIE root *spek- "to observe").

The notion is of "observing the hour" (of someone's birth, etc.). The word was in late Old English and Middle English as horoscopum, from Latin, but the modern form is considered to be a reborrowing. Related: Horoscopic; horiscopal. Horoscopy "the casting of a nativity" is attested from 1650s, from Latin horoscopium, from Greek hōroskopeion, from hōroskopia.

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H 

eighth letter of the alphabet; it comes from Phoenician, via Greek and Latin. In Phoenician it originally had a rough guttural sound like German Reich or Scottish loch. In Greek at first it had the value of Modern English -h-, and with this value it passed into the Latin alphabet via Greek colonies in Italy. Subsequently in Greek it came to be used for a long "e" sound; the "h" sound being indicated by a fragment of the letter, which later was reduced to the aspiration mark.

In Germanic it was used for the voiceless breath sound when at the beginning of words, and in the middle or at the end of words for the rough guttural sound, which later came to be written -gh.

The sound became totally silent in Vulgar Latin and in the languages that emerged from it; thus the letter was omitted in Old French and Italian, but it was restored pedantically in French and Middle English spelling, and often later in English pronunciation. Thus Modern English has words ultimately from Latin with missing -h- (able, from Latin habile); with a silent -h- (heir, hour); with a formerly silent -h- now often vocalized (humble, humor, herb); and even a few with an unetymological -h- fitted in confusion to words that never had one (hostage, hermit). Relics of the formerly unvoiced -h- persist in pedantic insistence on an historical (object) and in obsolete mine host.

The pronunciation "aitch" was in Old French (ache "name of the letter H"), and is from a presumed Late Latin *accha (compare Italian effe, elle, emme), with the central sound approximating the rough, guttural value of the letter in Germanic. In earlier Latin the letter was called ha. The use in digraphs (as in -sh-, -th-) goes back to the ancient Greek alphabet, which used it in -ph-, -th-, -kh- until -H- took on the value of a long "e" and the digraphs acquired their own characters. The letter passed into Roman use before this evolution, and thus retained there more of its original Semitic value.

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