Punctuality is the characteristic of completing a required task or fulfilling an obligation before or at a previously designated time.[1] "Punctual" is often used synonymously with "on time".

An opposite characteristic is tardiness.

Each culture tends to have its own understanding about what is considered an acceptable degree of punctuality.[2] Typically, a small amount of lateness is acceptable—this is commonly about five to ten minutes in most Western cultures—but this is context-dependent, for example it might not the case for doctor's appointments.[3]

Some cultures have an unspoken understanding that actual deadlines are different from stated deadlines, for example with African time were times for some types of casual or social events arrival time is implied. For example, it may be understood in a particular culture that people will turn up later than advertised.[4] In this case, since everyone understands that a 9 p.m. party will actually start at around 10 p.m., no-one is inconvenienced when everyone arrives at 10 p.m.[5]

In cultures that value punctuality, being late is seen as disrespectful of others' time and may be considered insulting. In such cases, punctuality may be enforced by social penalties, for example by excluding low-status latecomers from meetings entirely. Such considerations can lead on to considering the value[clarification needed] of punctuality in econometrics and to considering the effects of non-punctuality on others in queueing theory.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ "punctual". Merriam-Webster. 2012-08-31. Retrieved 2014-02-01.
  2. ^ Engle, Jane (2005-12-11). "Punctuality: Some cultures are wound tighter than others". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2014-02-01.
  3. ^ Zudeick, Peter (2012-12-09). "Germans and punctuality". Deutsche Welle. Retrieved 2014-02-01.
  4. ^ White, Lawrence T. (2012-02-23). "Is "Punctuality Standard" an Oxymoron?". Psychology Today. Retrieved 2014-02-01.
  5. ^ "Can Africa keep time?". BBC News. 2003-10-28. Retrieved 2014-02-01.

Further reading