Meaning of “once upon a time” in the English Dictionary

british dictionary

"once upon a time" in British English

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once upon a time

B1 used at the beginning of children's stories to mean "a long time ago":

Once upon a time there was an ugly duckling.

used when referring to something that happened in the past, especially when showing that you feel sorry that it no longer happens:

Once upon a time people knew the difference between right and wrong, but nowadays nobody seems to care.

(Definition of “once upon a time” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)