Meaning of TIME in English

I. time 1 S1 W1 /taɪm/ BrE AmE noun

[ Word Family: noun : ↑ time , ↑ overtime , ↑ timer , ↑ timing , ↑ timelessness ; adjective : ↑ timeless , ↑ timely ≠ ↑ untimely ; verb : ↑ time ; adverb : ↑ timelessly ]

[ Language: Old English ; Origin: tima ]

1 . MINUTES/HOURS ETC [uncountable] the thing that is measured in minutes, hours, days, years etc using clocks:

Einstein changed the way we think about space and time.

close relationships established over a long period of time

Customers have only a limited amount of time to examine the goods.

time passes/goes by

Their marriage got better as time went by.

2 . ON A CLOCK [singular] a particular point in time shown on a clock in hours and minutes:

‘What time is it?’ ‘It’s about two thirty.’

What time are you going out tonight?

what time do you make it? British English what time do you have? American English (=used to ask someone with a watch what time it is)

have you got the time? British English do you have the time? American English (=used to ask someone if they know what time it is)

tell the time British English tell time American English (=be able to understand a clock)

Robin’s just learning to tell the time.

look at the time (=used when you realize that it is later than you thought it was)

Oh no. Look at the time. I’ll be late.

is that the time? (=used when you suddenly realize what the time is)

Is that the time? I must go.

this time tomorrow/last week etc

By this time tomorrow I’ll know whether I’ve got the job.

3 . OCCASION [countable] an occasion when something happens or someone does something:

That was the only time we disagreed.

Do you remember the time I hit Tom Benson?

Mary had seen the film many times.

(for) the first/second/last etc time

It was the first time that he had lost a game.

Gerry had just had back surgery for the third time in two years.

(the) next time/(the) last time/this time

Why don’t you drop in for a drink next time you’re over this way?

The last time (=the most recent time) I saw Jonathan was Thursday evening.

The freezing weather did not return until February but this time we were prepared.

the first/second/next/last etc time round (=the first, second etc time something happens)

I missed their concert the first time round so I’m going next week.

every/each time

I meet up with Julie every time I go to Washington.

how many times ...?

How many times did you take your driving test?

How many times have I told you not to wander off like that? (=I have told you many times)

One time (=once) I went to a garage sale and bought fifteen books.

4 . POINT WHEN SOMETHING HAPPENS [uncountable and countable] the particular minute, hour, day etc when something happens or should happen

at the time of something

She was three months pregnant at the time of Stephen’s death.

at some/any/that time

He is performing as well as at any time in his career.

The UK has 500,000 stray dogs on its streets at any one time (=at any particular time) .

at a/the time when ...

At the time when this scheme was introduced, it was recognised that there might be problems.

by the time ...

The phone was ringing but by the time she got indoors, it had stopped.

it’s time to do something

Rosie – it’s time to get up.

it’s time for something

Come on, it’s time for bed.

He glanced at his watch. ‘It’s time for me to go.’

it’s time somebody did something

It’s time I fed the dog.

Now is the right time for us to move to London.

a good/bad time

This might be a good time to start planning the new garden.

not the time/hardly the time

Now is not the time to annoy Peter.

there’s no time like the present (=used to say that now is a good time to do something)

‘When do you want to meet?’ ‘Well, there’s no time like the present.’

dinner/lunch/tea etc time

It’s nearly dinner time.

opening/closing time (=the time when a shop, bar etc opens or closes)

We empty the till each night at closing time.

arrival/departure time (=the time when a train, plane etc arrives or leaves)

Our estimated arrival time is 2:30 pm.

time of day/year

England is so lovely at this time of year.

We’ll sort that out when the time comes (=when it becomes necessary) .

5 . PERIOD OF TIME [singular, uncountable] a period of time during which something happens or someone does something:

Dustin wanted to spend as much time as possible with his family.

a long/short/limited time

I first met Jennifer a long time ago.

They stopped for a short time to rest the horses.

Andy and Tom talked for some time (=for a fairly short period) .

Alison was married, for a time (=for a fairly short period) , to a comedian.

Martin disliked being away from his family for any length of time (=for more than just a short period) .

It took her a long time to make a decision.

Learning a language isn’t easy – it takes time (=takes a long period of time) .

take time to do something (=deliberately spend time doing something)

While in New York he took time to visit some friends.

travel time

I wanted to make better use of my travel time.

6 . AVAILABLE TIME [uncountable] an amount of time that is available for you to do something:

I’ll visit him if I have time.

Molly would like to do some diving if there is time.

have time for something

She realized she would have time for a coffee before her train left.

We don’t have to rush. We have all the time in the world (=have plenty of time) .

June had little time to spare (=available time) for making her own clothes.

free/spare time (=time when you are not working)

He writes poetry in his spare time.

Being prepared for meetings will save time.

I don’t want to waste time arguing.

She spent precious time (=valuable and important time) looking for a telephone.

I seem to spend most of my time on the phone.

McDuff passed the time writing letters (=wrote letters because he had nothing else to do) .

have time on your hands/time to kill (=not have enough to do)

Now the children have left home, she has too much time on her hands.

make/find time (for something/to do something) (=plan so that you have time available for something)

Make time to talk to your children.

Book your ticket soon, as time is running out.

time’s up (=used to say that it is the end of the time allowed for something such as a competition or examination)

we’re out of time (=used on radio and television programmes to say that there is no more time available on the programme)

7 . all the time ( also the whole time ) continuously or very often:

I keep practising and I’m improving all the time.

He worries about her the whole time.

8 . most of the time very often or almost always:

I can speak German but we speak English most of the time.

9 . half the time if something happens half the time, especially something annoying, it happens quite often:

Half the time you don’t even notice what I’m wearing.

10 . at times sometimes:

Life is hard at times.

11 . from time to time sometimes, but not regularly or very often:

These food safety scares happen from time to time.

12 . time after time/time and time again often, over a long period:

The police were catching the same kids stealing time after time.

13 . at all times always – used especially in official rules and statements:

Children must be supervised at all times while in the park.

Parents are welcome at all times.

14 . nine times out of ten/99 times out of 100 etc used to say that something is almost always true or almost always happens:

Nine times out of ten she’s right.

15 . at the time at a particular moment or period in the past when something happened, especially when the situation is very different now:

I was about ten or eleven at the time.

16 . at one time at a time in the past but not now:

At one time she wanted to be a nurse, but the thought of working at night put her off.

17 . at this time American English at this particular moment:

The President said his actions were ‘the right ones at this time’.

18 . at no time used to say strongly that something never happened or should never happen

at no time did/was etc

At no time did anyone involved speak to the press.

At no time was the company informed.

19 . for the time being for a short period of time from now, but not permanently:

Now, for the time being, she is living with her father in Tijuana.

20 . in 10 days’/five years’/a few minutes’ etc time ten days, five years etc from now:

He has an appointment with the doctor in two days’ time.

21 . in time

a) before the time by which it is necessary for something to be done:

Will you be able to finish it in time?

in time to do something

They ran all the way to the corner just in time to see the bus disappearing up the street.

in time for

The painting was successfully repaired in time for the opening of the exhibition.

in good time/in plenty of time (=a long time before the necessary time)

We arrived at the concert hall in good time.

b) after a certain period of time, especially after a gradual process of change and development:

He wants to see changes in the company and I am sure he will, in time.

22 . with time to spare sooner than expected or necessary:

We should arrive in New York with time to spare.

23 . over time if something happens over time, it happens gradually during a long period:

The research project will be assessed over time.

Students are encouraged to consider the way language changes over time.

24 . with time/given time after a period of time:

These symptoms will start to get better with time.

I would have thought of the answer, given time.

25 . take your time

a) to do something slowly or carefully without hurrying

take your time doing something

Marie took her time cutting my hair and did it really well.

take your time over

He had planned to take his time over the journey.

b) to do something more slowly than seems reasonable:

You’re taking your time with the lab tests. We need the results now.

26 . five/ten/many etc times ... used to say how much greater, more etc one thing is than another:

Sound travels four times faster in water than in air.

There were three times as many girls as boys.

27 . ... at a time

a) if someone deals with things one, three, ten etc at a time, they deal with them separately or in groups of three, ten etc:

If you raise your hands, I’ll answer questions one at a time.

Frank took the stairs two at a time.

b) if something happens for hours, days, months etc at a time, it continues for several hours, months etc:

Because of his work, he’s often away for weeks at a time.

28 . on time at the correct time or the time that was arranged:

Jack was worried about whether he’d be able to get there on time.

right/bang/dead on time (=at exactly the right time)

The plane arrived right on time.

29 . ahead of/behind time earlier or later than the time when something happens, should be done etc:

Prepare what you plan to say in the meeting ahead of time (=before the meeting) .

The train left twenty minutes behind time (=after it should have left) .

30 . it’s about time ( also it’s high time ) spoken used to say strongly that you think something should happen soon or should already have happened:

It’s about time our team won.

It’s high time we had a party.

31 . not before time/and about time (too) spoken used to say that something should have happened sooner:

Philip is going to be punished and not before time.

32 . the best/biggest etc ... of all time the best, biggest etc of a particular kind of person or thing that has ever existed:

He is the greatest athlete of all time, in my opinion.

33 . in no time (at all)/in next to no time very quickly or soon:

We’ll be there in no time.

34 . any time (now) very soon:

‘When is she due back?’ ‘Any time now.’

35 . it’s (only/just) a matter/question of time used to say that something will definitely happen at some time in the future, but you do not know when:

I’ll find the key eventually. It’s just a question of time.

It’s only a matter of time before we catch the person who killed her.

36 . (only) time will tell used to say that at some time in the future it will become clear whether or not something is true, right etc:

Only time will tell if the treatment has been successful.

37 . PERIOD IN HISTORY [countable] ( also times [plural] ) a particular period in history:

Mankind has used the horse since ancient times.

In earlier times, servants would use the bare wooden stairs at the back of the house.

at/in/during etc the time of something

He lived at the time of the Napoleonic wars.

our time(s) (=the present period in history)

Air pollution has become one of the most significant health problems of our time.

38 . behind the times old-fashioned:

Our equipment is a bit behind the times.

39 . move/change/keep up with the times to change when other things in society, business etc change:

We’ve got to move with the times.

40 . ahead of your/its time having or using the most advanced ideas, methods, designs, technology etc:

Coleridge was far ahead of his time in his understanding of the unconscious.

41 . PLEASANT/UNPLEASANT [countable] a good time, bad time, difficult time etc is a period or occasion when you have good, bad, difficult etc experiences:

This was the happiest time of her life.

good/bad/hard etc times

They had their happy times, but they had their hard times too.

have a good/great/lovely etc time (=enjoy yourself)

Did you have a good time at the party?

Julie went to a wedding at the weekend and had the time of her life (=enjoyed herself very much) .

42 . sb’s time in/at/as something the period of time when you were living in a particular place, working for a particular company etc:

In her time at the United Nations she was considered a tough negotiator.

43 . before your time

a) before you were born or before you started working or living somewhere:

They say he was a great actor but that was before my time.

b) if you do something, especially get old, before your time, you do it before the time when most people usually do it in their lives:

He seemed to grow into an old man before his time.

44 . IN PART OF THE WORLD [uncountable] the way of referring to points in time in one particular part of the world:

Eastern Standard Time

British Summer Time

The flight to Boston arrives at 1.15 pm local time.

45 . TIME TAKEN [countable]

a) the amount of time taken by a competitor in a race:

The Olympic medallist’s time in the 200 metres final was 2 minutes 11.56 seconds.

b) journey time the amount of time a journey takes:

The journey time to London is approximately four hours.

46 . SPORTS [uncountable] British English the end of the normal period of playing time in a sports game, especially football SYN full time :

Mason’s goal 13 minutes from time earned his team a place in the finals.

47 . MUSIC [uncountable] the number of beats in each ↑ bar in a piece of music:

Waltzes are usually in three-four time.

48 . in time to/with something if you do something in time to a piece of music, you do it using the same ↑ rhythm and speed as the music:

Gloria was tapping her feet in time to the music.

49 . keep/beat time to show the ↑ rhythm and speed that a piece of music should be played at to a group of musicians, using your hands

50 . keep perfect/good etc time if a clock keeps good time, it always shows the correct time

51 . PRISON do time to spend a period of time in prison:

Paul was doing time for burglary.

52 . pass the time of day (with somebody) to say hello to someone and have a short talk with them:

People like to pass the time of day with neighbours.

53 . time was (when) used to say that there was a time when you used to be able to do something, when something used to happen etc:

Time was when no one had television.

54 . there’s no time to lose used to say that you must do something quickly because there is very little time

55 . make good time if you make good time on a journey, you travel quickly, especially more quickly than you expected:

We made good time and were at the hotel by lunchtime.

56 . race/work/battle against time to try to finish or achieve something even though you have very little time:

Mark was racing against time to complete the work by Friday.

57 . time is money used to say that wasting time or delaying something costs money

58 . time is on your side used to say that someone is young enough to be able to wait before doing something or until something happens

59 . time is a great healer/heals all wounds used to say that someone will become less upset as time passes

60 . time flies used to say that time seems to pass very quickly:

Time flies when you’re having fun.

61 . in your own time if you study or do work in your own time, you do it outside normal school or work hours:

Nurses in training study in their own time.

62 . in your own (good) time informal when you are ready:

Bobby will tell them about it in his own good time.

63 . all in good time used to tell someone to be patient because something they are waiting for will certainly happen after a period of time, and probably quite soon:

‘I’d love to see it.’ ‘All in good time.’

64 . have a lot of/no time for somebody/something informal if you have a lot of time for someone or something, you like or admire them:

He has no time for (=does not like) people who talk too much.

65 . time of life used to refer to someone’s age:

At my time of life, you can’t take too many shocks like that.

66 . your time used in certain expressions to refer to the period when you are alive

in your time

I’ve met some rude women in my time but she’s the worst.

He was many things in his time – musician, pilot, cattle-rancher, industrialist, journalist.

If I had my time over again (=lived my life again) , I’d probably do exactly the same things.

67 . time of the month the time when a woman has her ↑ period :

It’s that time of the month.

68 . time out of mind literary a very long time, or a very long time ago

⇨ ↑ big time 1 , ↑ full-time , ↑ half-time , ↑ part-time , ↑ real-time , ⇨ at the best of times at ↑ best 3 (11), ⇨ time is of the essence at ↑ essence (4), ⇨ bide your time at ↑ bide (1), ⇨ in the fullness of time at ↑ fullness (1), ⇨ give somebody/something time at ↑ give 1 (21), ⇨ kill time at ↑ kill 1 (8), ⇨ lose time at ↑ lose (8), ⇨ mark time at ↑ mark 2 (11), ⇨ move with the times at ↑ move 1 (17), ⇨ in the nick of time at ↑ nick 1 (1), ⇨ for old times’ sake at ↑ old (19), ⇨ once upon a time at ↑ once 1 (14), ⇨ play for time at ↑ play 1 (18), ⇨ the time is ripe at ↑ ripe (3), ⇨ at the same time at ↑ same 1 (3), ⇨ sign of the times at ↑ sign 1 (9), ⇨ a stitch in time (saves nine) at ↑ stitch 1 (8), ⇨ have a whale of a time at ↑ whale 1 (2)

• • •

COLLOCATIONS (for Meanings 1, 5 & 6)

■ verbs

▪ time passes/goes by

As time passed, she thought less and less about her family back home.

▪ take time (=require a long time to do)

Learning a new skill takes time.

▪ have time (=have enough time to do something)

I didn’t do it because I didn’t have time.

▪ have/get time to do something

We never get time to do anything together.

▪ spend time

I’m going to spend some time with my family.

▪ pass the time (=spend a period of time doing something)

The prisoners pass the time reading, or writing letters.

▪ waste time

You are wasting your time arguing with him.

▪ save time

I used a ready-made sauce in order to save time.

▪ make/find time to do something (=do something, even though you are busy)

You need to make time to do things you enjoy.

▪ kill time (=spend time doing something unimportant while waiting for something)

He was just killing time before his appointment.


▪ a long time

I haven’t seen him for a long time.

▪ a short time

A short time later, she heard him drive away.

▪ a limited time (=a short period of time)

The offer is available for a limited time only.

▪ some time (=quite a long period of time)

I’ve known the truth for some time.

▪ free/spare time

He spends all this free time watching television.

▪ precious/valuable time

I’m sorry if I’m taking up your valuable time.

▪ family time

As the children get older, evenings become valuable family time.

▪ journey/travel time (=the time it takes to travel somewhere)

By train, the journey time to London is about two hours.

■ phrases

▪ a period of time

Over a period of time the students develop their own ideas.

▪ an amount/a length of time

Customers only have a limited amount of time to inspect the goods.

▪ there is time to do something (=there is enough time to do it)

There was no time to discuss it further.

▪ it takes time to do something

It took them a long time to struggle through the crowds.

▪ as time goes on (=as time passes)

I understood him better as time went on.

▪ time is running out (=there is not much time left to do something)

Doctors are looking for a suitable donor, but time is running out.

▪ time’s up (=used to say that the time allowed for something has finished)

Time’s up, class. Put your pens down and hand your papers to the front.

▪ have time to kill (=have time to do something unimportant while waiting for something)

I still had some time to kill, so I thought I’d make a couple of phone calls.


► Do not say ' a small time '. Say a short time .

• • •


■ a time when something happens

▪ time a time when something happens or when you should do something:

The last time I saw her she was in high school.


It’s time for you to go to bed.


The best time to visit Scotland is in late May.

▪ occasion a time when something happens. Occasion is more formal than time :

They have been seen together on several occasions.


The last occasion the two teams met, the Giants won easily.

▪ moment a particular point in time when something happens:

At that moment (=at exactly that time) , the door bell rang.


The next moment she was gone.

▪ point a particular time during a longer period of time:

At one point during the play she completely forgot her lines.


the lowest point of the holiday

■ a long time

▪ a long time a long period of time, especially many months or years:

They’ve been married a long time – nearly 30 years.


The house has been empty for a long time.

▪ all day/night/year/week continuing for the whole day, night, year etc – used especially to emphasize that it is a long time:

It’s going to take me all night to finish this essay.


He’s in London all week, and only comes home at the weekends.

▪ hours/weeks/months/years many hours, weeks, months, or years – used to emphasize that it is a long time, or much longer than it should be:

It’s years since I rode a bike.


My wife had to wait months for a hospital appointment.

▪ ages especially British English informal a very long time:

I’ve been standing here for ages.


The software takes ages to load.


They’ve lived there for ages.

▪ a while ( also some time ) a fairly long time:

I hadn’t seen Paul for a while, and he’d completely changed.


It may be some time before the company starts to make a profit.

▪ the longest time American English a very long time:

For the longest time, my daughter wasn’t reading at all.


It took me the longest time to figure out how to work the sunroof in this car.

■ a short time

▪ a minute/moment a short time:

I’ll call you back in a minute.


Can I show you something? It will only take a moment.

▪ a second a very short time:

I’ll be ready in a second.


Just a second – I can’t find my wallet.

▪ an instant written a very short time:

In an instant, they were gone.


He paused for an instant.

▪ a little while/a short while a short period of time, especially a few hours, days, or weeks:

I’ve been to Tokyo, but I was only there for a short while.


I saw him a little while ago.

II. time 2 BrE AmE verb [transitive]

[ Word Family: noun : ↑ time , ↑ overtime , ↑ timer , ↑ timing , ↑ timelessness ; adjective : ↑ timeless , ↑ timely ≠ ↑ untimely ; verb : ↑ time ; adverb : ↑ timelessly ]

1 . [usually passive] to arrange that something should happen at a particular time:

I saw from the station clock that I had timed my arrival perfectly.

be timed to do something

The tour has been timed to allow visitors to attend the opening night of the Verona opera season.

Her book was timed to coincide with (=arranged to be at the same time as) an exhibition of Goya’s paintings at the National Gallery.

be timed for something

The meeting has been timed for three o'clock.

2 . to measure how fast someone or something is going, how long it takes to do something etc:

We had to run up the stairs while the Sergeant timed us.

time somebody/something at something

They timed the winner at 2 minutes and 14.05 seconds.

3 . to hit a ball or make a shot at a particular moment ⇨ mistime

time something well/badly etc

Keith timed the pass well.

a beautifully timed shot

⇨ ↑ ill-timed , ↑ well-timed

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English.      Longman - Словарь современного английского языка.