These functions convert time values (see Time of Day) to Lisp timestamps, or into calendrical information and vice versa.
Many operating systems use 64-bit signed integers to count seconds, and can represent times far in the past or future. However, some are more limited. For example, old-fashioned operating systems that use 32-bit signed integers typically handle only times from 1901-12-13 20:45:52 through 2038-01-19 03:14:07 Universal Time.
Calendrical conversion functions use the Gregorian calendar even for dates before the Gregorian calendar was introduced, and for dates in the far distant past or future for which the Gregorian calendar is wildly inaccurate and disagrees with common practice in scientific fields like astronomy and paleontology, which use Julian-calendar year lengths. Year numbers count since the year 1 BCE, and do not skip zero as traditional Gregorian years do; for example, the year number −37 represents the Gregorian year 38 BCE.
This function converts a time value into a Lisp timestamp.
The form argument specifies the timestamp form to be returned.
If form is the symbol
integer, this function returns an
integer count of seconds. If form is a positive integer, it
specifies a clock frequency and this function returns an integer-pair
(ticks . form). If form is
t, this function treats it as a positive integer suitable for
representing the timestamp; for example, it is treated as 1000000000
if time is
nil and the platform timestamp has nanosecond
resolution. If form is
list, this function returns an
(high low micro pico).
nil form currently acts like
list, this is planned to change in a future Emacs version, so
callers requiring list timestamps should pass
If time is not a time value, this function signals an error.
Otherwise, if time cannot be represented exactly, conversion
truncates it toward minus infinity. When form is
conversion is always exact so no truncation occurs, and the returned
clock resolution is no less than that of time. By way of
float-time can also convert any time value
without signaling an error, the result might not be exact.
See Time of Day.
For efficiency this function might return a value that is
time, or that otherwise shares structure with time.
(time-convert nil nil) is equivalent to
(current-time), the latter may be a bit faster.
(setq a (time-convert nil t)) ⇒ (1564826753904873156 . 1000000000)
(time-convert a 100000) ⇒ (156482675390487 . 100000)
(time-convert a 'integer) ⇒ 1564826753
(time-convert a 'list) ⇒ (23877 23681 904873 156000)
This function converts a time value into calendrical information. If you don’t specify time, it decodes the current time, and similarly zone defaults to the current time zone rule. See Time Zone Rules. The operating system limits the range of time and zone values.
The form argument controls the form of the returned seconds element, as described below. The return value is a list of nine elements, as follows:
(seconds minutes hour day month year dow dst utcoff)
Here is what the elements mean:
The number of seconds past the minute, with form described below.
The number of minutes past the hour, as an integer between 0 and 59.
The hour of the day, as an integer between 0 and 23.
The day of the month, as an integer between 1 and 31.
The month of the year, as an integer between 1 and 12.
The year, an integer typically greater than 1900.
The day of week, as an integer between 0 and 6, where 0 stands for Sunday.
t if daylight saving time is effect,
nil if it is not
in effect, and −1 if this information is not available.
An integer indicating the Universal Time offset in seconds, i.e., the number of seconds east of Greenwich.
The seconds element is a Lisp timestamp that is nonnegative and
less than 61; it is less than 60 except during positive leap seconds
(assuming the operating system supports leap seconds). If the
optional form argument is
t, seconds uses the same
precision as time; if form is
seconds is truncated to an integer. For example, if time
is the timestamp
(1566009571321 . 1000), which represents
2019-08-17 02:39:31.321 UTC on typical systems that lack leap seconds,
(decode-time time t t) returns
((31321 . 1000)
39 2 17 8 2019 6 nil 0), whereas
(decode-time time t
(31 39 2 17 8 2019 6 nil 0). If form
is omitted or
nil, it currently defaults to
this default may change in future Emacs releases, so callers requiring
a particular form should specify form.
Common Lisp Note: Common Lisp has different meanings for
dst and utcoff, and its second is an
integer between 0 and 59 inclusive.
To access (or alter) the elements in the calendrical information, the
decoded-time-zone accessors can be used.
This function converts time to a Lisp timestamp.
It can act as the inverse of
Ordinarily the first argument is a list
(second minute hour day month
year ignored dst zone) that specifies a
decoded time in the style of
decode-time. For the meanings of
these list elements, see the table under
In particular, dst says how to interpret timestamps during a
daylight saving fallback when timestamps are repeated.
If dst is −1, the DST value is guessed; if it
nil the timestamp with that DST value
is returned, with an error signaled if no such timestamp exists.
Unfortunately a dst value of
nil does not
disambiguate timestamps duplicated when a TZDB-based timezone moves
further west of Greenwich, such as disambiguating the two
standard-time timestamps 2020-12-27 01:30 when zone is
‘"Europe/Volgograd"’, which at 02:00 that day changed
standard time from 4 to 3 hours east of Greenwich; if you need to
handle situations like this you can use a numeric zone to
The first argument can also be a list
hour day month year), which is treated like
(second minute hour day
month year nil -1 nil).
As an obsolescent calling convention, this function can be given six
or more arguments. The first six arguments second,
minute, hour, day, month, and year
specify most of the components of a decoded time. If there are more
than six arguments the last argument is used as zone and
any other extra arguments are ignored, so that
#'encode-time (decode-time ...)) works. In this obsolescent
convention, dst is −1 and zone defaults to the
current time zone rule (see Time Zone Rules).
When modernizing an obsolescent caller, ensure that the more-modern
list equivalent contains 9 elements with a
dst element that
is −1, not
Year numbers less than 100 are not treated specially. If you want them
to stand for years above 1900, or years above 2000, you must alter them
yourself before you call
The operating system limits the range of time and zone values.
However, timestamps ranging from the epoch to the near future are
encode-time function acts as a rough inverse to
decode-time. For example, you can pass the output of
the latter to the former as follows:
(encode-time (decode-time …))
You can perform simple date arithmetic by using out-of-range values for seconds, minutes, hour, day, and month; for example, day 0 means the day preceding the given month. Take care when doing so, as it is common for this to fail in some cases. For example:
;; Try to compute the time one month from now. ;; Watch out; this might not work as expected. (let ((time (decode-time))) (setf (decoded-time-month time) (+ (decoded-time-month time) 1)) time)
Unfortunately, this code might not work as expected if the resulting
time is invalid due to month length differences,
daylight saving transitions, time zone changes,
or missing leap days or leap seconds. For example, if executed on
January 30 this code yields a nonexistent date February 30,
encode-time would adjust to early March.
Similarly, adding four years to February 29, 2096 would yield the
nonexistent date February 29, 2100; and adding one hour to 01:30 on
March 13, 2022 in New York would yield a timestamp 02:30 that does not
exist because clocks sprang forward from 02:00 to 03:00 that day.
To avoid some (though not all) of the problem, you
can base calculations on the middle of the affected unit, e.g., start
at the 15th of the month when adding months. Alternatively, you can use the
calendar and time-date libraries.