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Sies­ta and Six

The word Sies­ta — the fa­mous long breaks! — comes from the Latin sex­ta ho­ra (“sixth hour”), be­cause it was the 6th hour af­ter the 6am wake-up time when every­one would stop, take a break, and pray. We can see the s‑s/x root in both — both com­ing from the same Pro­to-In­do-Eu­ro­pean word for “six.”

In­ter­est­ing­ly, how­ev­er, an­oth­er Eng­lish word comes from the same foun­tain: noon, which was orig­i­nal­ly nona ho­ra, the 9th hour af­ter the 6am wake-up time — time for an­oth­er prayer! But — you must be won­der­ing — noon is on­ly 6 hours af­ter 6am, not 9am hours! Ex­cel­lent point, and the ex­pla­na­tion is: the ninth hour prayers were orig­i­nal­ly at 3pm (9 hours af­ter 6am), but over time, peo­ple start­ed tak­ing their breaks ear­li­er and ear­li­er and ear­li­er.… sur­prise, sur­prise.


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