Call it a day and call it a night are idioms that came into use in the twentieth century. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions such as beat around the bush, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, chin up, on the ball, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. We will examine the meaning of the idioms call it a day and call it a night, where they came from, and some examples of their use in sentences.
Call it a day is an idiom used when one ceases to work. When one is tired and has been working hard, it is time to come to a stopping point and call it a day. One may call it a day because he has successfully completed something, or he may call it a day because nothing is going right and he is unsuccessful. In this case, someone may call it a day in the hopes that a fresh start in the morning will bring more success. It is also common to call it a day when one is engaged in a task he is not enjoying. The expression call it a day is actually part of a longer phrase used in the early 1800s: call it half a day. This phrase meant that the speaker was leaving work early, only working half of the day. The phrase was abbreviated to call it a day by the early twentieth century. Related phrases are calls it a day, called it a day, calling it a day.
The phrase call it a night came into use in the 1930s and usually means to cease the leisure activity one is engaged in and to go home to bed. One may call it a night after a party, movie, dinner, or other social activity. One may call it a night because of exhaustion, or simply because one is not enjoying the activity or the company of one’s companions. Related phrases are calls it a night, called it a night, calling it a night.
“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)
Rebuilding can be a long and troubling process; after this performance, older players are likely to call it a day (Chris Gayle said before the tournament that this would be his last), and younger players will wonder if they can handle the transition. (The Hindu)
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)
He finally texted her later in the evening — he was tired and was going to call it a night. (The Orange County Register)