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The Most Commonly Used Idioms about Time: Meanings and Examples

In all languages, including English, there are fascinating idioms and time-related phrases that add depth to our conversations. Discover a list of idioms about time, complete with meanings and examples, making your language learning journey both challenging and enjoyable.

If you are in the process of learning English, you will probably agree that learning idioms can be both challenging and… fun! There are plenty of idiomatic expressions. In this article, check out the list below of time idioms, demonstrating time-related expressions.

Common English Idioms About Time

Time-related metaphors and expressions hold a special place in the English language, allowing us to capture the essence of temporal concepts with vivid imagery. Let’s explore a selection of common English idioms that revolve around time!

idioms about time

  1. Time flies – time passes quickly

My daughter is now a grown-up woman, how time flies. I remember her first steps.


  1. High time – now is the right moment to do something, after a long period of delay.

This issue makes me lose sleep at night. It’s high time we talk in person.


  1. The third time’s the charm – to be successful at something you did for the third time

I failed this exam twice. Oh well, the third time’s the charm. I’m sure I will pass this time.


  1. A stitch in time (saves nine) – to fix a small problem right away before they become bigger

My father told me to fix the leak right away before we suffer further damage. When I didn’t move, he reminded me that a stitch in time saves nine.

5. All the time – regularly, often, frequently.

I tell my children to behave all the time, but they never listen.


  1. Make up for lost time – to catch up with someone after a long period.

Jane is traveling to Canada to meet her college friend who migrated there five years ago. She feels so excited and has vowed to herself that they will make up for the lost time.


  1. At a set time – to do something or to meet someone at an agreed-upon time

The team members agreed to go to the gym at a set time for the final practice.


  1. In the nick of time – to do something with no extra time to spare.

We made it to the front of the line in the nick of time. Any later and we’ll get nothing.


  1. Kill time – To do something while waiting for time to pass.

The applicants had to kill time by playing on their mobile phones while waiting for the interviewer to arrive.


  1. Time after time – to perform the same action in a repeated manner.

My mother told me time after time to wash the dishes.

That’s only the first set of idioms about time. Here’s more!


  1. To do time – to be in prison. To be jailed.

Alex was ordered to do time after being caught stealing for the fourth time.

idioms about time

  1. Turn back time – it pertains to reminiscing about something or wishing to go back to the past

If only I could turn back time, I would study harder and ensure that I would get a great job.


  1. Whale of a time – to have a fantastic time doing something

I had a whale of a time on my solo trip to New Zealand!


  1. Behind the times – describes an old-fashioned person or an outdated object

It’s a shame that her conservative family does not understand the situation from her point of view; they are really behind the times.


  1. Ahead of time – to do something in advance, with plenty of time to spare

If you prepared for your lessons ahead of time, it would be easier for you to join the class discussions and not get so confused.


  1. Crunch time – a moment when one has to make a critical decision

The president of the company was feeling dead tired, but he knew it was crunch time as the company employees were eager to know their fate. Did he need to tell the truth that the business was going downhill?


  1. Time is money – to take advantage of the opportunity while there is still a chance. Action brings reward.

Time is money; you should start calling your leads instead of playing online games!


  1. For the time being – an action that can either be continued in the future or not; a temporary decision.

I asked Jane to stay in my apartment for the time being while she was looking for a new job.

Idioms without the word “time”  but with meanings related to time

This time, let’s take a look at some timely sayings and chronological expressions without the explicit use of the word “time”. From “beat the clock” to “on the dot”, these time idioms will surely offer valuable lessons in time management and remind us of the profound impact time has on a daily basis.

Girls in clock tower

  1. Beat the clock – it means to finish something before a deadline, or before a given time frame is up

Although my car got stuck in traffic, I managed to beat the clock by running and was able to arrive to my office five minutes before a scheduled meeting.

  1. Better late than never – this idiom with time means it’s always better to do something even if it’s late than to not do it at all

John came late to my party and when he saw the frown on my face, he teased me that it’s better late than never.

Having fun? Continue with the list!

  1. At the eleventh hour / In the nick of time – these idiomatic expressions pertain to the last possible moment; almost too late

The students barely met the project’s deadline. They passed their output at the eleventh hour.

  1. In the long run – it pertains to a long period of time

I know you’re struggling to quit smoking. But I’m sure; you would see the benefits of doing so in the long run.

  1. Ship has sailed – a missed shot or opportunity

I planned to court Annie again. But before I can do the move, I’ve found out that the ship has sailed. She already said yes to our mutual friend in college.

  1. Around the clock – it pertains that something is open or someone is active for 24 hours; something that doesn’t stop

James finds himself stranded in the middle of the night because his car tires burst. Fortunately, an auto shop nearby works around the clock.

  1. Call it a day – it pertains to a time for rest after finishing something

We’ve finally finished the first part of the project. I guess we can call it a day as we are all tired and hungry. We’ll resume working tomorrow.

  1. In one stroke – to do something at the same time; immediately

Since we can only leave the house on Saturdays due to the lockdown, I always make sure to manage the errands in one stroke.

  1. Not born yesterday – to no be easily fooled, to not be naïve. To show distrust for someone’s words.

Please don’t lie to me about what you did. I wasn’t born yesterday.

Are you enjoying these idioms? Here’s more!

  1. On someone’s watch – for someone to be in charge of something at a particular time

I feel guilty because the kid got hurt on my watch.


  1. The crack of dawn – the early morning hours. Very early.

My grandmother gets up at the crack of dawn to prepare breakfast for our big family.


  1. On the dot – for something that happens at an exact time or moment

The new teacher arrived in the classroom on the dot of 9.

Man's arm on a laptop

  1. Once in a blue moon – something that rarely takes place. Very occasionally.

I have a drink once in a blue moon, but alcohol really isn’t my thing.


  1. A month of Sundays – a very long period of time

It’s been a month of Sundays since I last visited my hometown.

  1. Dwell on the past – it means to think about the previous times. To worry about the past.

Even if I know she’s not coming back, I still keep on dwelling on the past because of the happy memories.


  1. Days are numbered – when something is sure to end soon.

The days of racism on TV are numbered. New laws and regulations are being introduced.


  1. to come of age – when something is completely developed or when someone reaches maturity. To become an adult.

The prince has finally come of age and is being prepared to take the throne.


  1. Here today, gone tomorrow – things are temporary. Something that comes and goes.

Don’t take your family for granted just because you want to earn more money. The material things that money can buy may be here today but gone tomorrow.


  1. Hour of need – a time when someone is in desperate need of something

She will always be my best friend because she never left me in my hour of need.


  1. A laugh a minute –someone or something that can make you laugh all the time

Darius is always invited to parties because he’s a laugh-a-minute. Even if you’re feeling down, I’ll bet he can make you forget your problems for a while with his witty jokes!

idioms about time

Learning English Idioms About Time is Fun!

We use idioms about time to talk about the different concepts of time. Whether you wish to make a smart statement about time or are looking for a wittier way to get your message across, there is a long list of idioms with time that you can use to deliver the purpose.

There are still many more idioms in the English language, and not only idioms about time. Each and every day can be a new learning experience for you.

Check out our Youtube for a new idiom every week, along with authentic examples of English idioms and metaphors.

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