Learn English – What does the phrase “ungodly hour” really mean


When I hear people speak of "this ungodly hour" they are usually complaining about being awake (or especially working) earlier than they are accustomed.

But why is this called ungodly? It would seem that the diligence to arise early and begin work would be a mark of godliness. It seems that an "ungodly hour" would be a time, perhaps after midnight, when being awake is often associated with ungodly behavior, such as drunkenness and debauchery.

What is the history of this phrase?

Edit: 'ungodly hour', does carry the connotation of early, not just different than expected. Otherwise, ungodly means immoral. http://www.google.com/search?q=ungodly+definition


adjective /ˌənˈgädlē/ 
ungodlier, comparative; ungodliest, superlative

Irreligious or immoral
    - ungodly lives of self-obsession, lust, and pleasure

Unreasonably early or inconvenient
    - I've been troubled by telephone calls at ungodly hours

Best Answer

Ungodly is being used in the sense of outrageous; shocking; dreadful; insufferable, rather than invoking any of its religious meanings. So "an ungodly hour" just means "an outrageous time of day".

But how did the phrase come to have a connotation of earliness?

When people complain about an "ungodly hour", it is usually because they are forced to be awake when they would prefer to be asleep.

It's not unusual to be compelled to get up earlier than you wish. Some people must get up early every weekday just to get to work on time. And on occasion they might have to get up very early - to catch an early flight, for example.

It is far less common to be required to stay up late.

So, in most people's experience, when they find themselves talking about an "ungodly hour", it is far more likely to be an early one than a late one.