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Manual Pages  — TIME


time – get time of day



Standard C Library (libc, -lc)


#include <time.h>

time(time_t *tloc);


The time() function returns the value of time in seconds since 0 hours, 0 minutes, 0 seconds, January 1, 1970, Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). If an error occurs, time() returns the value (time_t )-1.

The return value is also stored in amp;* tloc, provided that tloc is non-null.


The time() function may fail for any of the reasons described in clock_gettime(2).


clock_gettime(2), gettimeofday(2), ctime(3)


The time function conforms to IEEE Std 1003.1-2008 ("POSIX.1").


The time() system call first appeared in AT&T v1 . Through the AT&T v3, it returned 60 Hz ticks since an epoch that changed occasionally, because it was a 32-bit value that overflowed in a little over 2 years.

In AT&T v4 the granularity of the return value was reduced to whole seconds, delaying the aforementioned overflow until 2038.

AT&T v7 introduced the ftime() system call, which returned time at a millisecond level, though retained the gtime() system call (exposed as time() in userland). time() could have been implemented as a wrapper around ftime(), but that wasn't done.

BSD 4.1c implemented a higher-precision time function gettimeofday() to replace ftime() and reimplemented time() in terms of that.

Since FreeBSD 9 the implementation of time() uses clock_gettime(CLOCK_SECOND) instead of gettimeofday() for performance reasons.


Neither ISO/IEC 9899:1999 ("ISO C99") nor IEEE Std 1003.1-2001 ("POSIX.1") requires time() to set errno on failure; thus, it is impossible for an application to distinguish the valid time value -1 (representing the last UTC second of 1969) from the error return value.

Systems conforming to earlier versions of the C and POSIX standards (including older versions of FreeBSD ) did not set amp;* tloc in the error case.

TIME (3) April 14, 2022

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