Official English Abbreviation for German Time Zone

Markus Kuhn mskuhn at
Fri Jul 12 12:42:48 UTC 1996

A few weeks ago, we had a lengthy discussion in comp.std.internat
initiated by Peter Hullah <Peter.Hullah at> about the
question, weather the abbreviation MET for "Middle European Time",
which is used on many Unix systems, should not more correctly be
replaced by CET for "Central European Time".

It was argued that "Central Europe" is the common English term used
for the geographic region in which Germany and its neighbor countries
are located and that CET is clearly more often used in the media than

One argument for MET was that the official German names for this time
zone are

  Mitteleuropäische Zeit (MEZ)         = UTC+01:00
  Mitteleuropäische Sommerzeit (MESZ)  = UTC+02:00

as defined in the German Time Act (Gesetz über die Zeitbestimmung
(ZeitG), 1978-07-25, Bundesgesetzblatt, Jahrgang 1978, Teil I, S.
1110-1111). The abbreviation MET looks very similar to MEZ and
abbreviations used in other European countries.

In order to get an official input to this discussion, I wrote a few
days ago a letter to the German Federal Physical-Technical Institution

  Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB)
  Laboratorium 4.41 "Zeiteinheit"
  Postfach 3345
  D-38023 Braunschweig

  phone: +49 531 592-0

Together with a lot of very interesting literature about the German
time standard and the DCF77 long wave time signal transmitter, I
received today an answer letter from Dr. Peter Hetzel, head of the PTB
department for time and frequency transmission. He explained that the
PTB translates MEZ and MESZ into English as

  Central European Time (CET)         = UTC+01:00
  Central European Summer Time (CEST) = UTC+02:00

Considering that PTB is the official keeper of the German time and
operates the most precise clock in Europe, I guess this is the most
official answer we can get.

I therefore suggest to change in the Olson time zone package tables and
in similar software the names "MET" and "MET DST" to "CET" and "CEST".
The term "Daylight Saving Time (DST)" seems to be anyway very U.S.
specific as "Summer Time" seems to be the term commonly used in
England. The old abbreviations should of course be kept as aliases.


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