80 Idioms with the Word Time

By Mark Nichol

Considering that time is such a critical element in our lives, it’s no surprise that the word time should crop up so often in English idiomatic usage. Here’s a list of phrases that refer directly to time.

1. a devil of a time: said of an ordeal
2. a legend in one’s own time: one who gains renown within his or her lifetime (also inspired “a legend in (one’s) own mind,” referring to an egotistical person who believes himself or herself to be more significant than he or she actually is)
3–4. a matter/question of time: said in reference to a state that will soon change
5. a rare old time: an enjoyable experience
6. a race against time: said of trying to accomplish something critical in a short time frame
7. a stitch in time: the first half of a proverb (ending with “saves nine” and with an obscure origin) that refers to the wisdom of taking precaution
8. a whale of a (good) time: an especially exciting or fun experience
9. ahead of time: before the agreed time
10. ahead of (one’s) time: said of someone or something that has an innovative approach or style or one that the world is not ready for
11. all in good time: an expression that encourages patience
12. all the time in the world: an unlimited amount of time
13. all the time: in addition to referring to habitual or continuous occurrence, can refer to knowing about something throughout a given period
14. at a set time: at the agreed time
15. at all times: always
16. at no time: never
17. at the appointed time: at the agreed time
18. bad time: an inconvenient moment or an unfortunate experience
19. before (one’s) time: said of something that existed or occurred before one was born or when one was too young to recall that thing, or said in reference to someone’s unexpectedly early death
20–21. behind its time/the times: late, not keeping up, or obsolete
22. bide (one’s) time: be patient
23. big-time operator: someone who is or thinks he or she is important or influential
24. big-time spender: one who spends a lot of money, or said ironically about a frugal person
25. borrowed time: an uncertain amount of time, at the end of which something will no longer exist or occur
26. buy time: postpone an event for one’s advantage
27. by the time: said in reference to a time after something else has occurred
28. caught in a time warp: unchanged in an antiquated or obsolete way
29. crunch time: a critical period
30. face time: time spent in someone else’s company
31. for the time being: for now
32. from time to time: occasionally
33. do (the) time: serve time in jail or prison
34. down time: rest period
35. get the time: become available
36. give (one) a hard time: be critical
37. good-time Charlie: one who seeks pleasure
38. good times: pleasant experiences
39. hardly have time to breathe: said when one is busy
40. have a time of it: experience difficulty
41. having quite a time: having a pleasurable experience, or having difficulty
42. have time on (one’s side): don’t have to hurry
43. I’ll catch you some other time: I’ll talk to you later when it’s more convenient for you
44. in next to no time: almost instantly
45. in the fullness of time: after enough time passes
46. in the right place at the right time: in a figurative sense, fortuitously prepared for some eventuality; also, literally, located in a position that is advantageous or fortunate
47. it’s about time: said to express impatience, or relief that something has finally occurred (usually accompanied by an exclamation point)
48. it’s high time: it is the appropriate time; one has waited long enough
49. keep time: maintain the beat in music
50. lose no time: do something immediately
51. make good time: proceed quickly or in a reasonable amount of time
52. make time for: set aside a period of time to accommodate someone or something
53. make up for lost time: catch up on time wasted or as a result of going slowly or not going at all
54. mark time: wait
55. not able to call (one’s) time (one’s) own: too busy
56. old-time: old-fashioned
57. on time: punctual
58. once upon a time: long ago
59. out of time: said in reference to no longer having time to do something
60. pass the time (of day) with: chat with
61. pressed for time: lacking enough time to do something
62. run that by me one more time: say that again
63. sands of time: a poetic reference to the passage of time as represented by sand in an hourglass
64. the big time: said in reference to achieving prominence in some endeavor
65. the time has come: the occasion is appropriate
66. the time of (one’s) life: a memorable experience
67. time and tide wait for no man: the world makes no allowance for one being late
68. time bomb: something that will inevitably result in a negative consequence
69. time flies: a reference to the fleeting nature of time
70. time is money: time is important because using it wisely or unwisely affects one’s ability to earn money
71. time on (one’s) hands: spare time
72. time out: in sports, a short period when play ceases; by extension, a break from activity (also used as the announcement of a request for a time out, as is time by itself)
73. (stuck in a) time warp: said in reference to observing something that or someone who appears outdated
74. time was: there was a time when
75. time’s a-wastin’: time is running out
76. time to hit the road: time to depart
77. time works wonders: the passage of time resolves problems
78. when the time is ripe: when the time is appropriate
79. withstand the test of time: endure
80. wouldn’t give (one) the time of day to: ignored

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4 Responses to “80 Idioms with the Word Time”

  • Steve

    Too much time on [my] hands.

    I’m say “a hell of a time.” Is this a US/Rest-of-the-English-Speaking-World thing?

  • Dan Lafrenière

    You forgot “killing (some) time” or “time to kill”, meaning to wait for something, an appointment or meeting, “idle time”.
    “You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today.” – Lyrics from “Time” by Pink Floyd (Roger Waters, author).

  • venqax

    “time and time again”: repeated over and over.

    These types of lists can never be exhaustive.

  • Mark Nichol

    But they can be exhausting. Thank you, dear readers, for existing and future additions to the list.

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