hourglass, glass instrument for measuring time, usually consisting of two bulbs united by a narrow neck. One bulb is filled with fine sand that runs through the neck into the other bulb in an hour's time. The date of its invention is unknown, but it was in use in ancient times. Similar devices for marking shorter periods of time, e.g., three-minute sandglasses for timing the cooking of eggs, are still used occasionally.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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