Post: Do you use these time idioms?


An idiom is basically a string of words or phrases that have been colloquially established to have a certain meaning that cannot really be defined by the individual words being used. For example, if you were to say that it is “raining cats and dogs” outside today, most people would understand that you mean the rain is pouring down hard; however, you cannot really define that by the individual words in your phrase, since you do not mean that cats or dogs are literally falling from the sky. In writing and in speech, there are many “time” idioms. 

Chances are, you use some of them without even thinking about it because such phrases have a cultural aspect. They become ingrained in everyday speech. Idioms can be helpful creative writing tools. Yes, you can write that a character in your story is smart. It’s a bit more creative to say that he or she is “a walking encyclopedia” or “sharp as a tack,” instead; don’t you think? 

There are many idiomatic phrases involving time

Look at the following list, which includes idioms about time, and count how many of the phrases you use, either in speech or when writing a story

  • He arose at “the crack of dawn.” 
  • She moved out of the way in the “nick of time,” just as the car sped past. 
  • “Once in a blue moon,” they’d grab a beer together after work. 
  • She wished that she could “turn back the hands of time” to the moment they first met.
  • It’s going to be a “race against time” to meet the deadline. 

What other time-related idioms can you think of? Using these types of phrases is also way to make your writing sound more informal when you want it to, such as if you are writing a fiction story and two characters who are best friends are having a conversation. 

What’s the difference between an idiom and a metaphor?

Both idioms and metaphors are types of figurative language. An idiom carries an understood meaning. A metaphor makes a comparison. Saying that “time flew by because we were having so much fun,” is an idiom. It means that time seemed to pass quickly while you were enjoying yourself. If you were to say that a “cloak of darkness” enveloped the sky, you’d be using a metaphor, comparing the vast expanse of darkness to an article of clothing. Take time to learn more about idioms and metaphors, then try incorporating some of each into your next story!