Reference > Brewer’s Dictionary > Cock-crow.

E. Cobham Brewer 1810–1897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
The Hebrews divided the night into four watches: 1, The “beginning of the watches” or “even” (Lam. ii. 19); 2, “The middle watch” or “midnight” (Judg. vii. 19); 3, “The cock-crowing;” 4, “The morning watch” or “dawning” (Exod. xiv. 24).   1
        “Ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cock-crowing, or in the morning.”—Mark xiii. 35.
   The Romans divided the night into sixteen parts, each one hour and a - half, beginning at midnight. The third of these divisions (3 a.m.) they called gallicinium, the time when cocks begin to crow; the next was conticinium, when they ceased to crow; and fifth was diluculum, dawn.   2
   Probably the Romans sounded the hour on a trumpet (bugle) three times, and if so it would explain the diversity of the Gospels: “Before the cock crow” (John xiii. 38, Luke xxii. 34, and Matt. xxvi. 34); but “Before the cock crow twice” (Mark xiv. 30)—that is, before the “bugle” has finished sounding.   3
   Apparitions vanish at cock crow. This is a Christian superstition, the cock being the watch-bird placed on church spires, and therefore sacred.   4
“The morning cock crew loud,
And at the sound it [the Ghost] shrunk in haste away,
And vanished from our sight.”
Shakespeare: Hamlet, i. 2.



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