15 Idioms For Periods Of Time


  1. After hours: In the evening or at night, or late in the day (referring to standard daytime hours that most businesses are open)
  2. Banker’s hours: A relatively short duration (from the onetime tradition that banks were open for a limited number of hours compared to other businesses; therefore, one who keeps banker’s hours has a light work schedule)
  3. Bat/wink/twinkling of an eye: variations of an idiom referring to a period of time so brief that it passes while one’s eyelid moves
  4. Eleventh hour: occurring late in a given time frame (from the fact that the eleventh hour is the last in the day before midnight)
  5. Flash: an instant (from the fact that a flash of flame is short lived)
  6. Heartbeat: an instant (from the duration between one heartbeat and the next); usually seen in the expression ‘in a heartbeat’; by contrast, a phrase beginning ‘a heartbeat away from’ refers to someone being in line for promotion if the heart of that person’s immediate superior stops beating — that is, if the other person dies
  7. Jiffy: an instant (perhaps from slang for lightning); also shortened to jiff
  8. New York minute: a brief time (from the notion that minutes in the hectic milieu of New York City pass more quickly than those in more relaxed locales)
  9. On the hour: at the beginning of every hour
  10. Shake: a very short period; usually employed in the phrase ‘two shakes’ (a truncation of the idiom ‘two shakes of a lamb’s tail’, alluding to the typically rapid motion of the young animal’s tail)
  11. Small hours: the early morning (from the low numbers on the clock that indicate the time during that period)
  12. Split second: a fraction of a second (from the notion that a second can be split, or subdivided); a split is also a fraction of the total elapsed time for a race
  13. Tick: a moment (from the ticking of a clock); a tick is literally a mark used for measure, as on a clock
  14. Trice: a short period of time (from a word meaning ‘pull’); often seen in the phrase ‘in a trice’
  15. Witching hour: midnight or the middle of the night (with the connotation that unsettling or unusual things happen then, from the superstition that witches are about at that time)

by Mark Nichol

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