Al-Biruni first subdivided the hour sexagesimally into minutes, seconds, thirds and fourths in 1000CE while discussing Jewish months. Around 1235 John of Sacrobosco continued this tradition, although Oxford University historian Philipp Nothaft thought Sacrobosco was the first to do so.

The word "minute" comes from the Latin pars minuta prima, meaning "first small part". This division of the hour can be further refined with a "second small part" and this is where the word "second" comes from.