Where does COB mean noon?
Thread poster: Samuel Murray

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:17
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Mar 13, 2013

G'day everyone

International business correspondence has its fair share of abbreviations, and we can only hope that all participants interpret them the same. One probable misunderstanding that occurs to me is "EST", which could mean either "estimated" or "New York time". Others occur when IRC-speak makes it into e-mails, for example "LMK" (let me know) and "PFA" (please find attached).

I have recently discovered that quite a few agencies (mostly with a Middle Eastern background, it would seem) use "COB" in odd ways, e.g. "11 AM COB" or "ASAP COB", and I had always just assumed that that means that the deadline time is flexible. But today I asked one such agent what he means by it, and to my surprise he says it means "centre of business" (middle of the day)! I had always thought it meant "close of business" (end of the day), and Google confirms that this is the normal meaning.

But the fact that not only one but more than one of my agencies use COB this way makes me wonder if there are other agencies or translators out there who also interpret "COB" to mean "noon". Have you had this experience or is this your understanding too?



Katie Van Keijenberg  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:17
English to Dutch
+ ...
Close of business ... Mar 13, 2013

Centre of business? never heard of it!

How confusing ...


Steven Smith
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:17
Member (2007)
Japanese to English
Cobblers Mar 13, 2013

Never heard or seen COB to mean this before. It seems to be a common abbreviation for 'center of business' in the sense of 'a central hub of business activities', but if enough people mistake it to mean the centre of the day (not an expression I have ever heard - surely it should be middle, as in MOD!), I suppose it will gain some currency.

[Edited at 2013-03-13 10:14 GMT]

[Edited at 2013-03-13 10:15 GMT]

[Edited at 2013-03-13 10:15 GMT]


John Holland  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:17
Member (2012)
French to English
End of Day Mar 13, 2013

I've always heard "COB" used for "Close of business" or "End of Day," never for "noon."

According to the Wikipedia, COB refers to the closing of financial markets:

I was thinking that maybe closing of financial markets in one time zone could correspond to lunch time in another. But that doesn't seem to work, since for example 16:00 in Cairo is 10:00 in New York:

And in any case, it would seem odd to refer to a distant time zone in that way. Also, there are many different financial markets all over the world and Daylight Saving time changes as well...

Here are some more uses of COB, none of which seem to mean "noon":


Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:17
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
I always confirm... Mar 13, 2013

I once had a client in New Zealand, luckily with a small certificate that I could translate in an hour, who somehow led me to believe I had 24 hours more than I actually had, because of the dateline.

I managed to deliver before I was technically late... because the overriding expression was 'ASAP'. I am not sure the client discovered my mistake, but there were a couple of hours of panic over here... icon_smile.gif

Others say EOB meaning before they leave the office, and that can be crucial.
I never know quite when they do leave the office in these days of flexitime, and one of MY favourite working times is in the evening, when there are fewer disturbances and my husband is watching football!
Great if EOB actually means End of my Business and 'in the client's mail the next morning'.

I take COB to mean Close of Business, more or less equal to EOB, but again, it's worth checking!


Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:17
English to French
Commencement of business Mar 13, 2013

was what I thought COB meant, the opposite of EOD. I don't know, but if it means "close of business", then I won't be late.
We could introduce 3COB to span the whole working day: commencement, center and close.

Lately, I have seen WFH, which looked like something rude. In fact, it meant working from home...



Thomas Pfann  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:17
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
Confusing Mar 13, 2013

I'm glad I'm not alone, Philippe. I, too, thought COB was short for "commence of business", ie. start of business (SOB).

But even when it is clear what it means there are too many different ways of defining what time is actually meant. One person's EOB might be 4:30pm, another person's EOB might be 7pm. Some people say EOB to make sure they have the files when they start work the next morning, others say EOB when they plan to receive, check and pass on the files before leaving the office at 5:30pm their time.

For this reason it is much better to agree actual times rather then vague acronyms which might have hugely different definitions. I often work to vague deadlines such as "by midday" or "in the course of the afternoon", though, and I also do like SOB deadlines - which for me mean I finish and deliver the job at the end of my working day but without having to make sure that I deliver before my client leaves the office for the day.

Any by the way: ASAP is often misunderstood as meaning "now" but it actually stands for "as soon as possible" - or as I like to put it: "after stuff already planned".icon_smile.gif


Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:17
Member (2007)
+ ...
Surely, we say "start", don't we? Mar 13, 2013

"Commencement" doesn't seem natural, so COB doesn't work for me. On the other hand,
"I can deliver this tomorrow, SOB"
might lose you a few clients!icon_eek.gif


Jean Lachaud  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:17
English to French
+ ...
ALways check local time Mar 13, 2013

Here in the USA, COB means "close of business," which can be vague, since in the MidWest offices tend to be empty before 5 pm, whereas in other parts of the country they have a more "normal" schedule.

When the customer is in a different country, I always make sure of what their schedule means WRT to my EDT time. Although I might have fallen in the New Zealand "one day ahead" trap.

]Thomas Pfann wrote:
I, too, thought COB was short for "commence of business", ie. start of business (SOB).[/quote]


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