How long is 'a moment'?

I read somewhere that a moment can be measured…something like 90 secs. Unfortunately I can’t remember the source (except that it was a British newspaper).

Anybody out there who’s heard of this theory, has a link or an answer to this query?

Tried Googling but nothing relevant came up.


In physics, the term “moment” has a specific definition, which is the vector product of a quantity (usually motion) and its perpendicular distance from a reference point. In common usage, it is a short, but indeterminate length of time, or an instantaneous, zero-length, point in time.

I’ve repeatedly heard the bit of trivia that in old England, a moment was legally defined as one and a half minutes. Might of course be an urban legend without any truth in it.

I thought that was an Mmm-Bop. :wink:

Hey, Troy, come here. Closer. A little closer. Little more. Ok…what’s the sound of one hand clapping?

Let that be a lesson to you.

I’ve always considered it to be 3 minutes. Of course, maybe that was for “a couple of moments”.

I’ve seen it defined as anything from 1/16th of a second to 5 minutes.

What a “moment” is may be culturally defined. I now live in Colorado, were a moment fits Qadgop’s definition. As a child growing up in Louisiana “just a moment” meant “when and if I have the time and inclination”:rolleyes: Of course, another common phrase there is “the other day”. As in “I told you to do that the other day.” This can be yesterday or ten years ago, depending on the person using this phrase.

From this page:

Since there’s no citation, this is only evidence that Skijumper isn’t alone in having heard this definition.
However, while this article isn’t particularly scholarly (Beachcomber is a humourous column), it does claim the support of the OED:

Anybody with access to the OED ?

The concise OED (7[sup]th[/sup] edition - 1982) says no such thing.

Regardless of the actual definition, “a moment” is going to vary in its meaning, depending on the culture where you happen to be. In Jamaica, “soon come” usually means not soon at all. In Trinidad “just now” is the local term for “soon,” which is a polite way of saying “could be any time” (and usually it’s not soon). In Mexico, “ahorita” can mean really soon, a few hours from now or tomorrow.

The entries for “moment” and “point” in my copy of the Compact OED (1971) exactly match the OED quotes in bonzer’s Beachcomber cite. The “moment” quote is sense 2, and the “point” quote is sense 10.

I’m now intrigued about what I’m guessing is a medieval technical use of “atom” that I haven’t previously come across, so I have to ask: what’s the cross-reference to “ATOM” ?