Using the phrase "within the hour"

Quick question/poll: How do you interpret the phrase “within the hour”?


As far as I’m concerned, the phrase “within the hour” is meant to be taken literally. If something is happening “within the hour” it will (or should) happen before the hour changes. For example if at 4:15 I say I’ll be leaving “within the hour” it means I’ll be leaving by 5:00. It would mean the same thing if I said it at 4:30, 4:45, or 4:anything.

Now, a co-worker of mine uses this phrase to mean basically within an hour. If at 4:30 he said he’s leaving “within the hour”, he’d mean that he’d be leaving by 5:30.


I’m wondering if this is kind of like “could/couldn’t care less”. Has this phrase changed to where it means something else? Is it common for someone to say “within the hour”, and mean within 60 minutes? How does everyone else here use or interpret this phrase?

I’ve always known it to mean “before the hour changes”. If it’s 5:35 and the newscaster tells me they’ll have be getting a comment from someone “with the hour”, that means before 6:00. I’ve never heard anyone say it to mean “within the (next) hour”, like your co-worker.

I’m not a native English speaker, but it’s never occurred to me that the phrase could mean “before the hour changes”. I’ve always understood is as “within the next 60 minutes”.

Always before the top of the hour; I’ve never heard it to mean differently.

ANYTIME someone says something to me that involves “Within the hour”. I ALWAYS say
“Within THE hour or withing AN hour”
“Well, within THE hour gives you ::looks at clock:: 20 minutes, within THE hour, gives you 60. Either way is fine with me, I just need to know which one you’re talking about.”
“Oh, within AN hour then”

I’ve always taken it to mean “within the next hour”.

So if it’s said at 9.30, you take it to mean “before 11.00”?

Within the hour = before the hour hand next passes 12
Within AN hour = sometime in the next 60 minutes

Or at least that’s how I’ve always understood it. Either way, the veracity depends on who is making the statement; If it’s someone working to a schedule (newsreader, train ticket seller), I’d expect it to happen as stated; if it’s someone who is just giving me an idea of how long something should take to complete (car mechanic perhaps), I’ll take it as an approximation.

I was raised on within the hour meaning before the hour number changes and within an hour meaning 60 minutes or less.

At the risk of being elitist to a fault, I don’t see how within the hour could properly mean as many as 60 minutes from now other than as slang or otherwise-informal speech. The hour is, as far as I am aware, 6 p.m. or 4 a.m. or whatever, not 3:21 p.m. to 4:21 p.m. (which is an hour, true, but not the hour). At 3:21 p.m., the hour you’re working with is 3 p.m. (excusing military time and the issue of time zones); an hour later is 4:21, but the hour has passed when the time reaches 4 p.m.

I’ve always used it to mean “within the next 60 minutes”.

Now that I’ve read this thread, however, I think the other way is better.

Besides, it’s another opportunity to sound fussily pedantic. I will say “Within THE hour or within AN hour?” right after saying “You can but you may not.” :smiley:

It’s just a saying, I wouldn’t take it to mean anything so specific as “before the next clock hour” or “within one hour relative to now”. It’s a period of time between “in a minute” and “sometime today”.

At the risk of being pedantic, it could mean pretty much that, if spoken an infinitesimal time after the hour.

I think it changes with context. If I’m watching an hour-long news broadcast, and at any time they say “Stay tuned for story x within the hour,” I take it as meaning by the end of the current program. But if someone says, "There should be another bus coming within the hour, I take it as meaning within the next 60 minutes.

Me too.

Tell me about it. Whenever someone uses this phrase, I always have to follow it up with, “Wait, what do you mean by that?” What’s the point of that? A stupid phrase, if you ask me. Especially if it changes meaning by context and/or by who is saying it in the first place.

Personally, I always took it to mean “before the hour hand reaches 12”, but on the other hand, I remember there was an episode of Seinfeld where George looks at the clock and it’s 12:45pm or something, and says to his unemployment officer “I can produce Keith Hernandez here within the hour.” And she looks at him and says, “All right, you got one hour.”

Now I know it’s television and I don’t base my knowledge on sitcoms… I’m just pointing it out as something that was intended to reach a mass audience and they took the phrase to mean “within an hour from now”.

The times I’ve heard the variations of the OP I’ve taken it/them to mean some vague unspecified period roughly 60 minutes from now. There have been times when the context would suggest “before the hour changes” and others when it would feel like “in less than 60 minutes.” In any case, a specific time is not in question, just a guess as to when something should or will take place.

On the other hand, when I encounter it on TV news I usually take it to mean “before too long, but maybe as much as an hour” sort of thing.

I’ve always assumed it meant “within an hour.” I’m not a native speaker but I’ve been living in the US long enough.

For those who use it as “till the hour changes” - what situation do you use it in? It seems strange that you’d need such an expression, unless you work in an environment where something happens at the top of the hour (e.g. TV or radio station).


To me “hour numbers” are arbitrary labels. Any unspecified hour means nothing more than “60 minutes.” So “within the hour” to me means within the 60-minute period beginning now. If you want something by 5 o’clock from me, then say you want it by 5 o’clock, otherwise, you’ll have to wait 60 minutes.

Not sure if they meant it this way, but I would say this to mean by 10:30.