Graveyard shift

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The term graveyard shift is an interesting idiom that has nothing to do with working in a graveyard. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. We will examine the meaning of the term graveyard shift, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

The graveyard shift is a work shift that spans the overnight hours, typically from midnight until dawn. Rarely does a graveyard shift take place in a graveyard. The idea is that one is out and about when everyone else is sleeping, and the world is as lonely and quiet as a graveyard. The term graveyard shift was coined in the United States in the latter half of the 1800s, when mine owners and factory owners realized they could double production by running their operations for twenty-four hours a day. While some people are night owls and thrive on working the graveyard shift, for most people it is a health hazard. Accident rates, ulcers and heart problems are much higher for people who work the graveyard shift.


While working the graveyard shift at the reception desk of a quiet seaside motel, a Chinese teenager witnesses a man assaulting two schoolgirls. (The Portsmouth Daily Times)

To stay afloat, both men worked the graveyard shift at a Hastings freezing works where they met for the first time. (The New Zealand Herald)

As she tended to a handful of locals gathered for an early-morning drink a few hours later, Shannon Shufeldt, a bartender who was scheduled to work the graveyard shift a block away at Aunt Tiki’s bar, said she was just arriving for work about 2 a.m. as the action unfolded. (The New Orleans Advocate)

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