What Is the "Crack of Dawn"?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 16 October 2019
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"The crack of dawn" is an idiomatic expression that is used to describe what many people consider a completely unreasonable time in the morning to arise and begin the day. When using this type of English saying, the purpose is usually to convey the idea that only something that is out of the ordinary or can only be accomplished successfully at this unusual time would justify this early rising. At times, referring to the crack of dawn helps to exemplify the level of responsibility and commitment expressed by a person who rises early to manage essential tasks.


For many, the crack of dawn is seen as a time early in the morning that is anything but desirable for waking up and beginning to engage in any type of tasks. Typically, there is a sense that while rising at such an hour is not desirable, there is the expectation of gaining some sort of benefit from the activity. For example, an individual may choose to get up at the crack of dawn on a Saturday morning in order to do the week’s grocery shopping just as the stores open, and avoid having to go grocery shopping later in the day, when there are more customers crowding the aisles. In like manner, an exercise enthusiast may arise at the crack of dawn in order to jog or work out during a time frame in which there are not a lot of other joggers in the park or people at the health club.

While rising at the crack of dawn is sometimes done with the idea of gaining some benefit, other situations may use the term in a way that implies the early rising was completely unnecessary and unproductive. While some people like to get on the road at the crack of dawn when beginning a vacation, others find this to be unproductive, since the idea of a vacation is to relax and not be in a hurry. Other situations may also imply that getting up at the crack of dawn is ultimately futile if the purpose for doing so is to manage tasks that could just as conveniently be done later in the day.

Whether used as a way to indicate commitment and sacrifice or to describe a situation in which rising early does not accomplish anything of value, most people are aware of what is meant by the phrase crack of dawn. For many people, rising early is a necessity that must be observed regularly in order to maintain a job with unusual hours, or for those who want to accomplish certain tasks and free time later in the day for other activities. Others only rise at such an early hour for events that are out of the ordinary, such as boarding a plane for a trip.


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Post 1

You haven't explained why it's the *crack* of dawn and not the 'fizzle' or the 'pop' or the 'eruption' of dawn. Also, I don't agree that there's any connotation of unreasonableness; it just simply means the exact moment of the sun's beginning to rise.

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