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85 Sayings About Time

Updated on June 28, 2019
Ben Reed profile image

Ben has held a life-long interest in language and has a special interest in the expressions, phrases and idioms that contribute to its use.

85 Idioms and Sayings Related to the Passage of Time

As the Bob Dylan song from 1964 goes: "The Times They Are A Changing".
As the Bob Dylan song from 1964 goes: "The Times They Are A Changing". | Source

Time Passes Relentlessly as These Idioms and Phrases Suggest

Time waits for no man. So lets get started on these idioms and phrases that are used to express the subject, and concept of time on our lives

1. Time is of the essence
A way of saying that time is key to a problem, or project.
Example: "We must get the patient to hospital quickly. Time is of the essence to him making a full recovery."

2. Withstand the test of time
Something that will endure the passing of time.
Example: That fence is really robustly made. It will surely withstand the test of time."

3. Time flies
A way of saying that time passes by very quickly. Sometimes replaced by the expression "time slips by".

Example sentence: "I can't believe how quickly the winter is approaching. Time flies by these days."

4. Caught in a time warp
An idiom used to describe a feeling of being stuck in a different time period. Can refer to seeing people seemingly stuck in a different era through their choice of fashion, or behaviour.

5. Sands of time

An expression which tells us that irrespective of who you are, the passage of time will always march on regardless.

A reference to the passage of time, as seen by grains of sand in an hourglass.

The sands of time just keep ebbing away.
The sands of time just keep ebbing away. | Source

Aspects of Time

6. Time works wonders
A way of saying that the passage of time resolves all problems.
Example: "Try not to worry. It will be okay in the end. Time works wonders."

7. An all-time high
Meaning that something is at its highest level ever.
Example: "We broke all records with our sales last month. Sales are at all-time high."

8. Day in the sun

A phrase used to say that everyone has their moment of time when they are fully appreciated.
Example: "Keep working hard Joe, you will surely get your day in the sun, and win that promotion."

9. Since time immemorial
To say that something has always been there for as long as anyone can remember. The term "Immemorial" means something existing beyond the reach of memory.

10. To the end of time
Meaning that something is forever.
Example sentence: "I will love you to the end of time."

Time Is simply too precious to waste
Time Is simply too precious to waste | Source

Idiomatic Expressions About Time

As we all learn during the course of our lives, time is not always our friend. Occasionally, time can be our enemy.

11. Crunch time
To say that something has reached a critical period, or a point in time when something must be done — even if it's extremely difficult to achieve.

12. Time is a-wasting
Meaning that time is running out to complete a task.
Example: "Look, it getting late, and we must get the painting finished today. Times a-wasting."

13. At the eleventh hour
An expression indicating that it is almost too late, or that you are at the last possible moment to do, or to change something.
Example sentence: "I didn't think we would get the project finished on schedule. It was a very close call, but thankfully we got it done at the eleventh hour."

14. Devil of a time
Used to describe an difficult period of time, or an ordeal that someone is going through.
Example: "I was close to despairing that I would never get Susan back into school following her illness. It was a devil of a time."

15. To do time

A way of describing someone in prison.

Don't get caught, or you will do time
Don't get caught, or you will do time | Source

We Are all Living on Borrowed Time

16. A race against time
A term used to describe someone who is trying to accomplish something critical in a short period of time.
Example: "It was a race against time to get that my book finished. The publisher only gave me 6 months to finish the draft, and time was very tight."

17. The lost years
Meaning that someone has lost years that can never be made up.
Example: "I wish I had stuck with college during my teen years. I feel like I have been playing catch up with my education ever since. Those were my lost years."

18. At no time
Meaning: never.
Example: "At no time did I enter that building. They are mistaken."

19. Living on borrowed time
A way of saying that by rights a person should have already died. Used with reference to a situation in which a person has so many ailments that normally, they would not have been expected to have survived as long as they already have.

20. Before ones time
Often used to describe the opposite of the phrase above. A situation in which someone passed away unexpectedly, or at early age.

What Does the Word Idiom Actually Mean?

Idiom means private or peculiar to oneself. In other words, an idiom is a form of expression, or a phrase, that is peculiar to a language.

To make it just a little more complex, an idiom has a meaning and significance that is not the same as it first appears when spoken. This can create all sorts of problems for people trying to learn a second language. However, these sayings add so much colour and richness to our language that they are well worth the effort of trying to understand.

6 Idioms on the Subject of Time

Time Expressions 21 to 25

21. More times than I’ve had hot dinners
Meaning that something has occurred more times than you can remember.
Example: "Young Jimmy has been put in detention for his behaviour more times than I've had hot dinners. I am at my wits end."

22. Times without number
A way of saying that something has occurred numerous times. This expression is often used in a negative way. An example being: “Look, I have told you times without number that it is important to make sure you check that you have your keys on you before you leave the house. I have lost count of the times I have had to pop round with your spare set of keys in order to let you back into the house."

23. Someone’s days are numbered
This idiom is often used hyperbolically (an exaggerated claim), to indicate that someone, or something is about to reach its end.

Example sentence: "I think that my car's days are numbered. It failed its M.O.T on just about all counts."

24. Once in a blue moon
A phrase that has its origins in the early to mid 16th Century with reference to a blue moon being made in a poem by the Bishop of Chichester, England.
It is a way of saying that something rarely occurs. An example of this being: "We don't go out much anymore — just once in a blue moon these days."

25. Third time’s a charm
This expression has a similar meaning to the phrase "third time lucky." An example sentence being: "I have tried to pass my driving test twice now without success, but I feel more confident this time, after all, third times a charm."

Once in a blue moon
Once in a blue moon | Source

What did you say? Please Run That by me one More Time

26. Never in a month of Sundays

An idiom which is typical in its use of language which if taken literally, would have a different meaning than the expression intends. For example, a month of Sundays would mean that something would not happen for thirty weeks (30 Sundays), but which by inference could happen after this. However the idiom "never in a month of Sundays" actually means that something will NEVER happen.

27. Time after time
An idiom used to say that something is repeated over, and over again.
Example sentence: "Why do I have to repeat myself time after time? Will you please tidy the garage?"

28. A stitch in time, saves nine
This proverb is a way of saying that it is better to fix a problem when it first occurs, rather than to let the problem become worse — requiring a bigger fix later on.

29. Run that by me one more time
Put simply, please say that again.

Timely Expressions and Phrases 30 to 35

30. Time and tide wait for no man
A phrase that tells us that no person is in control of time. It simply marches on relentlessly. Historically, tide was a word meaning time, and so the original phrase literally meant time, the and time wait for no man. However, over the years has it come to be associated with the tide of the sea.
This saying is a very old one. There is some evidence that it was used in the 13th century in England by Saint Marher.

31. In the nick of time
This idiom is used as a way of saying that something has been completed at the last possible moment. The use of the word "nick" in this context is believed to have its origins in the 16th century. At that time "nick" is believed to have been used to describe the critical moment in an event.

32. At the appointed time
At the agreed time.

33. In the right place at the right time
A way of saying that you were fortunate enough to be able to take advantage of a situation by being well prepared for some eventuality.

34. It’s about time
Usually said in a frustrated or impatient way. To say that something has finally happened.
Example sentence: "I see that John has finally finished decorating the house. I told him that it was about time he got that job completed."

35. Keep time
To maintain or keep time to the beat in music.

Keeping time can be a tricky thing to achieve. You will need to keep a tight hold of it.
Keeping time can be a tricky thing to achieve. You will need to keep a tight hold of it. | Source

Life Is Sometimes Just a Race Against Time

36. Lose no time
An expression used to say that something needs to be done immediately, without delay.
Example: "The patient is in a very bad way. We must lose no time in getting him to the operating theatre."

37. Out of time
A way to say that there is no time left to complete a task. The opportunity has passed.

38. Pressed for time
A way of saying that there is not enough time to do something.
Example: "I'm sorry I can't stay and chat. I am a bit pressed for time at the minute."

39. Better late than never
Often used in a sarcastic way. A means of telling someone that it is better to do something late (even if it is a bit late in the day), rather than not do it at all.
Example: "Simon finally paid me back, I suppose it is better late than never!"

40. A race against time
An idiom referring to a situation where someone is in a rush to finish a task within a given time-frame.

41. It’s high time
An idiom that tells us that the time has come when further delay is no longer possible.
Example sentence: "It's high time you got moving or we will never make it to the airport."

42. Beat the clock
A way of saying that you should finish a task before a particular time or deadline.
Example: "I set my alarm clock every night, but I always try and beat the clock by waking early to avoid it going off and disturbing others,"

Time is running out
Time is running out | Source

Idiomatic Expressions Involving Time and Memories

There are a number of idioms and phrases that remind us of times past.

43. For old times sake
This idiom is used when we want to remember, or honour past friendships. Often used when we want to do someone a favour out of respect for past memories or actions.
Example sentence: "I can't really afford to lend out this sum of money, but I will for old times sake."

44. Whale of a good time.
A way of saying that you are having a very exciting or fun experience.
Example: "The fairground was amazing, we had a whale of a time there."

45. The time of ones life
Similar in meaning to the phrase above. Usually refers to a memorable experience.
Example: "The holiday was truly amazing, and not something easily repeated. We had the time of our lives."

46. Behind the times

To be out of date with ones ideas.

Example: "Grandfather, surely it is time you had a mobile phone? I know you don't like the idea, but everyone has them these days."

47. Time out of mind
A way of saying that something is from the long distant past. From a time beyond the recall of human memory.
Example: "These lands have been held within our family from times out of mind."

48. Time was
A way of referring to a time when something happened.
Example: "Time was when I used to have put cardboard in my shoes to try and keep my feet dry. They were certainly tough times back then."

49. Rare old time
To say that something was an enjoyable experience.
Example: "I really enjoyed the school reunion. We all had a rare old time."

Wise Sayings About Time

These sayings remind us that patience is a virtue.

50. To take ones time
To do something at your leisure, or your own pace without being hurried.
Example: " I know that the builder has a very good reputation for the quality of his work, but he sure does take his own time. He has been a month on that job already."

51. Bide ones time
To be patient.
Similar in some ways to the idiom above. This idiom suggests that a person is dwelling on something, perhaps being canny and waiting for the opportune moment to act.
Example: "I was desperate to ask my boss for a raise, but I decided to bide my time and wait for the appropriate moment to ask."

52. Have time on ones side
Meaning that you don't have to hurry.
Example: "There is no hurry to get to the airport. Its just a mile up the road and we don't fly until late tonight. Time is on our side"

53. In the fullness of time
A way to say that in the end something will happen. It may just be a matter of enough time passing.
Example: "I know it seems confusing right now, but don't worry, everything will become clearer in the fullness of time."

54. Mark time
A term often associated with a military march or step where the soldier marches in one place without moving forward.
This idiom means to wait a while while something happens.
Example: "Don't be so eager. You should consider just marking time on this for a while. The problem will surely resolve itself soon enough."

55. When the time is ripe
A way of saying when the time is appropriate for something to happen.
Example: "The time is ripe for the development of that plot of land."

56. Play for time
A way to say that someone is purposely delaying doing something. Used in a negative sense to suggest that a person is delaying something in the hope of circumstances changing that may prevent them having to do something that they don't want to do.
Example: "I need to pay back the money I borrowed from Jack, but I am hoping that if I just play for time, then I can put Jack off for a few days until I next get paid."

57. Time is on my side
Used to suggest that there is no hurry and that you have a lot of time in which to complete something.

Example: "I was struggling to meet the original deadline of next month, but since the board decided to extend the project by 6 months, I really feel that time is now on my side."

58. All the time in the world
That you have an unlimited amount of time available to you. This idiom can be used both positively and negatively.
Positive example: "Don't worry about it. There is no rush. We have all the time in the world."
Negative example: "I wish you would get a move on. You would think you had all the time in the world."

59. All in good time
This expression is used to encourage patience.
Example: "Be patient Sam. I know you are keen to hear that you have got that new job, but all in good time."

7 Timely Idioms and Their Meaning

It's Something of a Cliche But if Only we Could Turn Back Time

60. Turn back time
Often used when we are reminiscing about something, and would like to revisit those times.
Example: "My school days were the best years of my life. I didn't realise it back then, but I wish I could go back and just appreciate it more than I did at the time."

61. Make up for lost time
A phrase used to say that you would like to catch up on time previously wasted.
Example: "I need to make up for lost time. I just couldn't seem to get to grips with the gardening earlier this season, and now I am so behind with my planting."

62. Once upon a time
A phrase often used to introduce a children's story, Refers to a long distant past.
Interestingly, while we often think of this saying being a modern one, this phrase has been recorded as being used way back in the early 16th century.

63. A legend in ones own time

This phrase can be used in both a positive and a negative way.

Positive meaning: A way of referring to a person who has gained renown in their own lifetime.
Negative meaning: A way of referring to a person who believes themselves to be of more significance that they actually are.

64. Let the good times roll
Used to describe pleasant experiences, or a period of time when all seems to be going well.
Example sentence: "Everything is going smoothly thanks. Having fun, no worries, things could not be better - let the good times roll."

Difficult Times

Life is not always easy. A selection of idioms that tell us that this is so.

65. Bad time
A way to say that this is, or was, a troublesome period.
Example: "I felt very alone and isolated in those days. It was a bad time for me."

66. To have a rough time
Similar meaning to the expression above. Used to describe a period of time when things were not easy, and a person was experiencing a series of unhappy events, or being treated miserably.

67. An all-time low
A way of saying that something is at its lowest level ever.
Example: "I have hit an all-time low. I can't remember the business going so badly."

68. Have a time of it
To say that a person is experiencing some difficulty.
Example: "Mark is having a time of it, what with having flu, then the car breaking down, and the now he's just been fired from his job. It seems like his problems are never ending."

69. To fall upon hard times
Meaning that a person is experiencing a fall in their living standards.
Example: "The recession hit him hard. Work dried up, and he had to sell his city apartment home and move into rented accommodation on the outskirts of town. He certainly fell upon hard times."

There Just Isn't Enough Time

70. Hardly have time to breathe

An expression used to describe a period when a person is busy and seemingly without time to pause and draw breath.

Example: "I am absolutely worn out. Things have become so hectic around here that I hardly have time to stop and breathe."

71. Not able to call ones time ones own
A way to say that a person is just too busy doing things for others that they are finding it difficult to spend time on doing the things that matter to them personally.

A Video on Time Related Idioms

Let The Good Times Roll

72. A good-time girl
A way of describing a young girl who is only interested in having a good time, and prefers to seek having fun rather than taking an interest in more serious things such as work.

73. Good-time charlie
A person one actively seeks pleasure.
Example: "He is such a good-time charlie. I can't remember a time when he's not been either at, or hosting a party."

74. Make good time
Used to describe a situation where things proceed quickly.
Example: "We have made good time. I had expected the drive to take a lot longer, but we had no hold ups, and everything went very smoothly."

A Poll on Time

What are your thoughts on time?

See results

Make The Big Time

We all yearn to have the ability to hit the big-time.

75. Big-time operator
Usually refers to an organisation or business that is powerful in its chosen field of operations. Can also be used to describe a person who is, or thinks they are, an important or influential figure. This idiom can also be used in a derogatory way to infer that someone is not as important as they like to think themselves to be.
Positive example: "The business has grown exponentially in the last two years, and is now a big-time operator in the field of computing."
Negative example: "If you are such big-time operator, how come I have a better car than you."

76. Big-time spender
References a person who spends a lot of money (usually to impress others). Again, as with a lot of idioms, this can also have a negative or derogatory meaning as it can be said ironically about someone who is more frugal with their money.
Example (positive): "Michael certainly splashes his money around. He is a big-time spender, but at least he gives a fair wedge of cash to good causes."
Example (negative): "Don't expect Simon to buy his round of drinks — you will have a long wait, he's the last of the big-time spenders."

77. Make the big time
Someone is said to have made the big time when they have achieved prominence in some way.
Example: "Carol's hard work has finally paid off. She has landed a leading role in musical, and is likely to sign for a record label as well. She has certainly made the big time."

Looking to The Future

78. To be born ahead of ones time
Often said of a person who has views or opinions (often innovative) that are not always considered important to his or her contemporaries in society, but who's true worth will be appreciated at some time in the future.

79. Keep up with the times
To maintain attitudes and methods up to date.
Example: " We need to keep up with the times, or else our customers will go elsewhere."

As the saying goes: "Time is money"
As the saying goes: "Time is money" | Source

There Is Simply Never Enough Time

80. By the time
Usually said with reference to a time after which an event has already occurred.
Example: "By the time you read this letter, I will have already left."

81. I’ll catch you some other time
Meaning that you will wait to speak to a person later, at a more convenient time.

82. Time out
A sporting term that references a short period of time when play ceases. Often used to say to someone that they need to take a short break to gather their thoughts or compose themselves.
Example: "If you don't mind, I need to take a time out. I can't quite get my head around what you are saying."

83. Wouldn’t give one the time of day
To say that you will ignore something or someone.

84. Time is money
To say that time is a valuable asset and you should not waste or fritter it away.
Example: "Don't just sit and mope. Time is money! Get moving and do something positive with your time."

85. Wasting time
Describes a period when you are engaged on something with no real purpose.
Example: "Why are you wasting time with that. You should do something more meaningful with your time."

Comments

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    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      5 months ago from Redcar

      Thank you. I guess it should be of little surprise that there are so many phrases based on the subject of time. I know that as I age, I am ever more conscious of the subject.

    • Yvonne Teo profile image

      Yvonne Teo 

      5 months ago from Singapore

      Gracious! 85! Good compilation!

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      9 months ago from Redcar

      Thank you. It's really surprising just how many times a day we use sayings such as these, often without even knowing we are incorporating them into our everyday language. I was quite amazed myself when I finally counted up just how many there are.

    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 

      9 months ago from Norfolk, England

      That was very interesting to read. You don't realise how many sayings there are about time until you see it written down. And I've used many of these sayings myself too!

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