Call it a night means to end or conclude an activity, event, or day, usually implying a decision to stop what one is doing and go to sleep or retire for the night. We usually use it to indicate our intention to conclude social events or work and head home or to rest.
It’s considered an idiom, which is a metaphorical expression that doesn’t have a literal intent behind it. Idioms play a crucial role in English language communication because they vividly convey significant ideas or emotions in a visually impactful manner.
Whether you want to call it a day or call it a night, understanding how to use this idiom is key to mastering the nuances of English. So, this article goes over all the details related to the phrase call it a night in depth—its literal and figurative meanings, origin, proper usage, variations, and related phrases. By the end, you’ll be able to master this expression!
What Does the Idiom Call It a Night Mean?
The idiom call it a night means to stop or finish what you’re doing and go to bed. It’s like saying it’s time to end the day or activity.
Merriam-Webster defines the idiom call it a night as “to go home or go to bed at the present time.” Moreover, the Cambridge Dictionary gives a bit more detail, defining it as “to stop what you have been doing in the evening or night, often in order to go to bed.”
Either way, it’s a phrase that signifies the decision to end activities, particularly during the evening or late hours. It often precedes the action of going home or going to sleep. It’s a universal signal that your day has ended, and rest or retreat is imminent.
My problem is not knowing when to call it a day. I love what I do so much that I lose track of time when I’m engrossed in a writing project. Sometimes, my husband will poke his head in my office and tell me it’s well past midnight and it’s time to call it a night.
Call It a Day or Call It a Night—What’s the Difference?
It’s a fine line, but call it a day typically refers to ending daytime activities, like work or tasks such as cleaning the house. Call it a night is specific to concluding events or actions taken in the evening or night. The choice of day or night in the phrase just depends on when things are taking place.
Literal Meaning vs. Figurative Meaning
The literal meaning of call it a night is all about declaring that the night has commenced or ended. The phrase figuratively indicates a person’s decision to end evening activities and possibly head home to hit the hay.
Variations of the Idiom
Like most expressions, there are always variances in use around the world. Regional preferences and cultural uses tend to switch up the wording. Here are a few variations of the phrase call it a night.
- I’m going to call it a night
- Let’s call it a night
- Let’s call it a day
- Call it a day
- Calling it a night
- Calling the evening
- Call it an early night
Each of these serves the same purpose but adds a personal or situational twist.
How Is Call It a Night Commonly Used in Context?
Call it a night is so versatile and can be found in dialogues after long workdays, at the close of gatherings, or when an individual decides to end any activity and rest.
In the following sections, we will explore the various ways in which call it a night is commonly used, offer tips for its effective usage, and provide examples to illustrate its application in everyday language.
What Are the Different Ways to Use the Idiom Call It a Night?
- After work: To let others know you’re done for the evening. “I’ve finished all my tasks, so I’m going to call it a night.”
- When socializing: As a polite way to indicate you’re ready to go home. “The evening was delightful, but it’s time for me to call it a night.”
- In decision-making: Accepting that there’s nothing else you can do with the time left in the evening. “Look, we’ve been assembling this IKEA cabinet for hours, but it’s late; let’s call it a night and tackle it fresh tomorrow.”
What Are Some Tips for Using the Idiom Call It a Night Effectively?
- Understand that the phrase is informal and best used in casual or familiar settings.
- Use it to politely excuse yourself or collectively suggest ending the night’s activities.
- Pair it with personal expressions or context to fit the situation appropriately.
Where Can You Find Examples of the Idiom Call It a Night?
This idiom is fairly prevalent in conversational English, movies, literature, and various media forms. It’s used to depict the end of daily activities or events.
There’s a 2003 Australian-American comedy called “The Night We Called It a Day,” which utilizes both ends of the phrase. Also, if you haven’t heard the 2018 indie folk song “Call It a Night” by Wild Rivers, you need to go check it out! It’s so good!
Likewise, the phrase has been quoted by the news over the years, like in these examples I pulled:
“I used to just throw a mic anywhere, run through a song a few times, be satisfied and call it a day,” he said. (Newport This Week)
No matter how many espresso martinis you’ve indulged in, there comes a point when it’s time to crash and call it a night (we speak from experience, ladies). (Curve Magazine)
What Is the Origin of the Idiom Call It a Night?
The idiom call it a night originated from its sister phrase, call it a day, which itself derives from a longer phrase, call it a half day. This was uttered by workers in the 1800s when they only had to work half of a day. Eventually, the expression was shortened to call it a day, which people said when they finished their task and wanted to rest.
It wasn’t until the early 1900s that call it a night came around, which people used to let others know that their nightly activities were done for the evening, and it was time to go home.
How Did the Idiom Evolve Over Time?
Call it a night has maintained its core meaning but has been adapted into different contexts and cultures to express the end of something for the time being.
What Are Some Related Terms to Call It a Night?
Knowing and understanding related terms and expressions enhances your comprehension of the original phrase.
- Wrap it up
- Wind down
- Head out
- Done and done
- Hit the hay
- Start the day
- Keep going
- Press on
- Get started
- Get going
(Let’s) Call It a Night—A Simple Phrase for Going Home: Test Your Knowledge!
Choose the correct answer.
What Have We Learned about the Idiom Call It a Night?
The simple idiom call it a night (or call it a day) is all about letting others know you’re done for the time being and are ready to either go home or go to bed. It’s a fun expression and one that should stand the test of time.
We covered its meaning and origin, touched on variations and a few synonyms, plus shared a few examples of the phrase in use. I hope my guide helped iron out any confusion you might have about the expression. If you want to learn more, I have hundreds of idiomatic guides right here on Grammarist!