What is the literal meaning of “eleven?”


What does the number eleven mean? And what unusual words and expressions incorporate eleven?

The word derives from the Old English endleofan, which means “one left,” as in “one left over ten.”

This literal sense is found in the colloquial expression “the eleventh hour,” which is used to talk about doing something at the last possible moment. For example, “In the eleventh hour, Sophie switched the caterer and invited ten more people to the wedding.”

It’s believed that the expression originally referenced the bible, Matthew 20:1-16. In the parable, laborers were hired at the eleventh hour of a twelve-hour workday. But they received the same wage as workers who began during the first hour.

Is there really a word for a snack eaten at 11 in the morning? In fact, there is. In England, the term “elevenses” refers to a mid-morning snack, such as biscuits with a cup of tea. The Spanish term las onces, “the elevens,” also refers to a refreshment taken around 11.

The word “elevenses” was used in America as well. It referred to the now abandoned custom of a pre-noon whiskey break.

What is the link between a whole bunch of elevens and Veteran’s Day? Read about that here.

Previous The People's Choice Word of 2010 is . . . (It was almost a tie) Next Pareidolia vs. Eschatology