one of the 24 regions or divisions of the globe approximately coinciding with meridians at successive hours from the observatory at Greenwich, England.
Origin of time zone
First recorded in 1880–85
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attested by 1885.
Previous to 1883 the methods of measuring time in the United States were so varied and so numerous as to be ludicrous. There were 50 different standards used in the United States, and on one road between New York and Boston, whose actual difference is 12 minutes, there were three distinct standards of time. Even small towns had two different standards one known as "town" or local time and the other "railroad" time.
... At noon on November 18, 1883, there was a general resetting of watches and clocks all over the United States and Canada, and the four great time zones, one hour apart, into which the country was divided came into being. So smoothly did the plan work that the general readjustment was accomplished without great difficulty and it has worked satisfactorily ever since. ["Railroad Trainman," 1909]
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Any of the 24 divisions of the Earth's surface used to determine the local time for any given locality. Each zone is roughly 15° of longitude in width, with local variations for economic and political convenience. Local time is one hour ahead for each time zone as one travels east and one hour behind for each time zone as one travels west. The International Meridian Conference in 1884 established the prime meridian as the starting point for the 24 zones. See more at International Date Line standard time.
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