Turn of the century

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1900 sheet music cover reflecting the era's optimism about a better future through technological progress.

Turn of the century, in its broadest sense, refers to the transition from one century to another. The term is most often used to indicate a distinctive time period either before or after the beginning of a century or both before and after.

Where no specific century is stated, the term usually refers to the most recent transition of centuries.[citation needed]

In British English the phrase 'the turn of the nineteenth century' refers to the years immediately preceding and immediately following 1801, 'the turn of the twentieth century' to the years surrounding 1901, and so on.[citation needed]

In American English it isn't so clear cut. According to the Chicago Manual of Style online Q&A, there is no common agreement as to the meaning of the phrase "turn of the n-th century." For instance, if a statement describes an event as taking place "at the turn of the 18th century," it could refer to a period around the year 1701 or around 1800, that is, the beginning or end of that century. As a result, they recommend either using only "turn of the century," and only in a context that makes clear which transition is meant,[1] or alternatively to use a different expression that is unambiguous.[2] "Turn of the century" commonly meant the transition from the 19th century to the 20th century; however, as the generations living at the end of the 20th century survived into the 21st century, the specific number of the referenced century became necessary to avoid confusion.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Chicago Style Q&A: Numbers". The Chicago Manual of Style Online. Retrieved 1 May 2019.
  2. ^ "Chicago Style Q&A: Usage". The Chicago Manual of Style Online. Retrieved 1 May 2019.
  3. ^ Salas, E (1 June 2008). "At the turn of the 21st century: reflections on our science". Human Factors. 50 (3): 351–353. doi:10.1518/001872008x288402. PMID 18689036.