O'clock SHARP!

Posted by ESC on October 10, 2003

In Reply to: O'clock SHARP! posted by Greykell on October 09, 2003

: My 12 year old was asking me today why we say to be somewhere at something o'clock sharp. I have no idea. I know what I mean when I say it but I don't know where it came from.

: Any ideas?

: thanks,
: Greykell Dutton
: greykell@comcast.net

Sharp - adjective. Probably before 1200 "scharp"; developed from Old English (before 830) "scearp" cutting, keen, sharp.The use of "sharp" as an adjective to mean "promptly, exactly" was first recorded in 1840, according to The Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology by Robert K. Barnhart (HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 1995).

It doesn't have anymore information about the evolution of the term. But it would seem to be an easy jump from meaning (c & d, from Merriam-Webster online) clear and distinct to "promptly, exactly."

6 a : terminating in a point or edge, sharp features b : involving an abrupt or marked change especially in direction, a sharp turn. c : clear in outline or detail : DISTINCT, a sharp image. d : set forth with clarity and distinctness, sharp contrast.