When does afternoon end and evening begin?
–Sidney Lanier, Macon, GA Few people seem to realize that the word “evening” actually comes from the verb “to even out”. Even fewer know what, exactly, “evening” evens out. The etymology of the word “afternoon” is obvious, of course: it refers to the time after noon, but before sunset. There was also an old English word, “forenight”, which was the opposite of “afternoon”–meaning the period after sunset, but before midnight. Over time, unfortunately, the word been shortened/merged with “night”, and the resulting lack of precision causes a lot of confusion. But back in the day, “afternoon” and “forenight” were both common words, with perfect opposite meanings. And being perfect opposites, the two time periods were required by definition to last the same length of time each day. Under the simple definition of the terms, this only happened twice a year–at the fall and spring equinoxes, when sunset hit at exactly 6pm. Without some process for “evening” these time periods out, “afternoon”