Meaning of “time” in the English Dictionary

"time" in English

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uk /taɪm/ us /taɪm/


A2 [ U ] the part of existence that is measured in minutes, days, years, etc., or this process considered as a whole:

He wants to spend more time with his family.
Time passes so quickly when you're having fun.
She grew more and more fascinated by the subject as time went on/by.
The curtains have faded over/with time (= as years have gone past).
You'll forget her in time (= in the future).
Over the course of time (= as years have gone past), holes have formed in the rock.
When Paula was ill, I took her some magazines to help her pass the time.
If you'd taken more time with/over (= spent more time doing) this essay, you could have done it much better.
It takes a long time (= many hours are needed) to get from London to Sydney.
We'd save time on our journey (= it would be quicker) if we went by train.
I only worked there for a short period of time.
The kitchen clock is gaining/losing time (= is going fast/slow).
My watch has never kept very good time (= been correct).
all the time

A2 continuously:

I wish you'd stop criticizing me all the time.
in no time C1 also in next to no time

very quickly or very soon:

The kids ate their dinner in no time.
We'll be home in next to no time.
no time to lose

If you say there is or that you have no time to lose, it means that you must do quickly whatever it is that you want to do:

Come on, there's no time to lose, we have to get home before John finds out.
for all time literary


I will love you for all time.
of all time

that has ever lived or existed:

She's been called the greatest singer of all time.

More examples

time noun (TIME AVAILABLE)

an amount of time that you have available to do something:

I don't know how you find time to do all the things you do.
I thought we'd give her a little more time (= allow her more time) to get the job done.
I'd like to visit all the museums but time is short (= there is little time left).
have time

B1 If you have time, you have enough time to do something:

We don't have much time before the train leaves.
Do you have time for a quick drink after work?
I'd like to learn to sail, but I don't have the time (= I am too busy).
[ + to infinitive ] I don't have time to go to the shops today.
waste time

A2 to not make good use of the hours, etc. that you have available:

If you'd done your work instead of wasting time on your phone, you'd be finished by now.
run out of time

B1 to not have enough hours, etc. available to finish something you are trying to do:

She ran out of time and didn't finish the last question.
be (all) out of time

to not have enough minutes, etc. available:

I'd like to continue this discussion but we're all out of time.
time's up informal

there are no more minutes, hours, etc. available:

OK, everyone, time's up for this week.
time added on

UK also injury time, stoppage time a period of time added to the end of a football match because play was stopped during the game, usually to take care of players who were hurt:

His goal in the third minute of time added on sealed the match.

time noun (PERIOD)

A2 [ S or U ] a particular period of time for which something has been happening, or that is needed for something:

After a time, it became clear that nobody was interested in coming to the meetings.
They stayed with us for a short time.
That was the best restaurant I've been to for/in a long time (= a long period has gone past since I went to such a good restaurant).
It was some time ago that I last heard from her.
We're going on holiday in two weeks' time (= after two weeks have passed).
During her time (= while she was) in office, the prime minister introduced a large number of changes.
What do you like doing in your spare/free time (= when you are not working)?
have/take time off

to stop work, in order to do something else:

I asked my boss if I could have some time off (from work) to go to the dentist.
for a time

for a short period:

For a time, we all thought that Sheila and Frank would get married.
for some time

B2 for a fairly long period of time:

I've been doing yoga for some time.
for the time being

C1 for a limited period:

Leave the ironing for the time being - I'll do it later.

More examples


A1 [ C or S or U ] a particular point in the day, as expressed in hours and minutes or shown on a clock, or a particular point in time:

What time is it?
mainly UK "What's the time?" "It's ten o'clock."
What time do you finishwork?
Have you got the time? (= Do you know what time it is?)
He's teaching his daughter to tell the time (= to recognize what time it is by looking at a clock).
Did you find out the times of the trains to Kiev?
The estimated time of arrival/departure of this flight is 11.15.
mainly UK Oh dear, is that the (right) time? (= is it really so late?)
We always have dinner at the same time every day.
I was exhausted by the time (= when) I got home.
When would be a good time for me to call you?
"What would be the best time of day for us to deliver the table?" "Oh, any time will be OK."
Today's temperatures will be normal for the time of year (= will be as they are expected to be in this season).
Just think, this time (= at the same particular point during) next week we'll be in Aruba.
We regret that at the present time (US also at this time) we are unable to supply the products you ordered.
The time is fast drawing near/approaching (= it will soon be the time) when we'll have to make a decision.
at the time

A2 at the particular point when something was thought of or done:

It seemed like a good idea at the time.
at the same time

B1 If two things happen at the same time, they happen together:

We arrived at the same time.
at your time of life

at a person's present age:

At his time of life, he ought to be taking things easy.

More examples

time noun (SUITABLE POINT)

B1 [ S or U ] a particular point of the day, year, etc. that is suitable for a particular activity, or at which something is expected to happen:

holiday time
party time
Put your toys away now - it's time for bed.
It's time (that) I was leaving.
[ + to infinitive ] Is it time (for us) to go home yet?
This is not the time (= not a suitable moment) to be thinking about buying a house.
This is no time (= not a suitable moment) to change your mind.
I feel that the time has come (= now is a suitable moment) for me to move on.
The repairs to the road were finished two weeks ahead of time (= sooner than was expected).
Why is it that the buses never run on time (= make their journeys in the expected number of hours, etc.)?
She's grown old before her time (= sooner than she might have been expected to have done).
in time

B1 early enough:

I got home just in time - it's starting to rain.
If we don't hurry up, we won't be in time to catch the train.
We got there in plenty of time (= we arrived early) for the beginning of the game.
(right/dead/bang) on time informal

happening or done at the particular moment that it was expected to happen or be done:

My parents go to the house right on time.
ahead of time mainly US

earlier than a particular moment:

Let's meet for lunch. I'll call you ahead of time to decide exactly when and where.
about time C1 also high time informal

If it is about time/high time that someone did something, it should have been done sooner or a long time ago:

It's about time (that) the school improved its food service.
It is high time for the critics to open their minds to a new approach.
about time UK also about time too, not before time informal

said when someone does something or something happens that you think should have been done or have happened much sooner:

"So Ben's finally found a job." "Yeah, it's about time."
the time is right/ripe

it is the most suitable moment to do something or for something to happen:

I haven't told him yet, but I will when the time is right.
She felt the time was right to leave.
The time is ripe for investing in new technology.

More examples

time noun (OCCASION)

A2 [ C ] an occasion when something happens, or the experience connected with it:

The last time we went to Paris, it rained every day.
Every time/Each time I ask you to do something you say you're busy.
They go swimming three or four times a week.
There are times when I wish I didn't live where I do.
The four-times champion (= the champion on four occasions in the past) was defeated in the second round.
If I'd known at the time (= then) that she was his former wife, I'd never have said what I did.
Someti`mes I enjoy my English classes, but at other times I find them really boring.
For the umpteenth/hundredth/thousandth time, (= I've told you on many occasions to) stop teasing your sister.
Did you have a bad/good time (= an unpleasant/enjoyable experience) at the conference?
She had an easy/hard time of it (= a comfortable/uncomfortable experience) with the birth of her second baby.
from time to time

B2 sometimes, but not often:

From time to time I still think of her.
time after time

C2 again and again:

Time after time she gets involved in relationships with the wrong men.
time and (time) again

very often:

I've told you time and time again - look before you cross the road.
at all times


When you're at the airport, you should make sure you have your luggage with you at all times.
at (any) one time also at a time, also at any given time

at or during any particular point or moment in the day:

Only a certain number of people are allowed in the building at any one time.
I'm sorry, but I'm too busy to help you now - I can only do one thing at a time.
at times

C1 sometimes:

You can be really annoying at times, you know.
at any time


Parking is not allowed here at any time.
the times UK

on many occasions:

The times I've told you, ask before you borrow my clothes.

More examples


B2 [ C ] also times a period in history:

"A Tale of Two Cities" is set at the time of the French Revolution.
In/During medieval times, women thought to be witches were burned at the stake.
In times gone by, all crops were harvested by hand.
Times were hard (= living conditions were not good) when I was a boy.
He is widely regarded as one of the best writers of modern/our times (= the present or very recent past).
I never thought it would happen in my time (= before I died).
We sat and talked about old times (= things that had happened to us in the past.)
Times have changed and many more women now have executive jobs than in the past.
at one time C2

in the past:

At one time, George Eliot lived here.
ahead of your time UK also before your time

having new ideas, opinions, or ways of living long before most other people do

before sb's time

If something is before your time, it happened or existed before you were born or were old enough to remember it:

I don't remember the Beatles - they were before my time.
See also
time was

said to mean that there was a period in the past when something used to happen or be true:

Time was (when) you could buy a loaf of bread for sixpence.

More examples

time noun (MUSIC)

[ U ] the number of beats in a bar of music, or the speed at which a piece of music is intended to be played:

This piece is written in 4/4 time.
Small children often have difficulty singing in time with the music (= at the same speed at which the music is being played).
It seemed to me as if the violins were playing out of time (= at a different speed from the other instruments playing the same piece of music).
To beat time is to make a regular series of sounds at the same speed as a piece of music is played.
Tapping your foot will help you to keep time (= to play the music at the correct speed).

time noun (DRINKING)

[ U ] the particular point in the day at which people who are drinking in a bar in the UK have to finish their drinks and leave:

"Time, please!" called the landlord.
Is it time already?


timeverb [ T ]

uk /taɪm/ us /taɪm/


uk / -taɪm/ us / -taɪm/

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

"time" in American English

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us /tɑɪm/


[ U ] the seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, etc., in which existence is measured, or the past, present, and future considered as a whole:

I really don’t have time to call her today.
The children spent most of their time outdoors.
We’d save time (= It would be quicker) if we didn’t have to pick up Bobby on the way.

[ U ] If you waste time, you do not make good use of the amount of time available to you.


[ C/U ] a particular period of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, etc., during which something has been happening or is needed or available:

[ U ] The kids are well-behaved most of the time.
[ C ] She was very lonely at that time.
[ C ] They talked for a long time.
[ U ] She spent most of her free time listening to music.
[ C ] It’s unusual to get snow at this time of year.
[ U ] Those kids are over here all the time (= often or continuously).

[ C/U ] If you pass time, you do something while waiting for something else to happen:

[ U ] While he was waiting, Joe passed the time looking through magazines.

[ C/U ] Your time in a race is the number of seconds, minutes, and hours you take to complete it:

[ C ] The track was soft, and the times were slow.


[ C/U ] a particular moment in the day, as expressed in hours and minutes and shown on a clock, or a particular point in the day, week, month, or year:

[ U ] What time is it?
[ U ] What time do you finish work?
[ U ] He’s teaching his daughter to tell time (= to recognize what particular point in the day it is by looking at a clock).
[ C ] I catch the train at the same time every day.
[ U ] Parking is not allowed here at any time (= ever).

[ C/U ] Time is also used to refer to the system of recording hours used in different parts of the world:

[ U ] Mountain Standard Time

time noun (SUITABLE POINT)

[ C/U ] a point of the day, week, month, or year that is suitable for a particular activity, or at which something is expected to happen:

[ U ] We had enjoyed our visit, but now it was time to go home.
[ U ] Put away your toys, Leni, it’s time for bed.
[ C ] The times for meals are listed on the schedule.
[ U ] This is no time (= not a suitable moment) to change your mind.
in time

To be in time for something is to arrive at the right moment, before it is too late to do something:

We arrived just in time for the show
I'm glad you got here in time to see Julie before she goes.
The plane is expected to arrive on time (= when scheduled).

time noun (OCCASION)

[ C ] an occasion or period, or the experience connected with it:

This is a time to be serious.
There were times when he almost gave up, but somehow he managed to survive.
We visit my mother a few times a year.
She takes the medicine three times a day.
He was holding down three jobs at the same time.
We had a good time at the party.


[ C ] also times a period in history:

Indians since ancient times have ground their corn by hand.
before your time

Something or someone before your time happened or existed before you were born or were old enough to remember:

The Beatles were way before my time.

timeverb [ T ]

us /tɑɪm/

time verb [ T ] (MEASURE ON A CLOCK)

to arrange for something to happen at a specific moment:

We timed our arrivals at the airport so that we could meet and share a taxi to the city.


to measure the seconds, minutes, and hours for something to happen or someone to do something:

We ran two miles and were timed at 12 minutes and 30 seconds.
You’ve got to time the roast or it will get overdone.

(Definition of “time” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)

"time" in Business English

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uk /taɪm/ us

[ U ] what is measured in minutes, hours, etc.:

spend/waste/save time Many consumers spend considerable time researching the best buys for a new or camera.
have (the) time to do sth Not all investors have the time to invest directly in stocks and shares.
an amount/period/length of time The amount of time small-business managers spend at work has increased
a lot of/plenty of/little time Executives often complain that a lot of time is wasted in meetings.
give sb time to do sth The Australian IT group has been given more time to raise funds for the merger.
more/less time Suggested amendments to current legislation would give borrowers more time to pay back loans.
it takes time to do sth Customers using the new system report an 80% reduction in the time it takes to place orders.
over time How do you think the market will perform over time?
time and money/resources/energy Today's youngsters spend more time and money on personal grooming than any previous generation.

[ S ] a period of time of a particular type, for example, a period that is difficult, successful, etc.:

a difficult/hard/tough time Auto makers are having a tough time in a marketplace that is getting more and more competitive.
an easy/good time The media group has not had an easy time of late, due to a difficult advertising market and changing viewer habits.

[ S ] a period of time of a particular length:

for a time The advantages of low business tax can give a significant boost to economies, at least for a time.
a long/short/extended time TV will probably continue to dominate the advertising market for a long time.

[ U ] time that is used in a particular way or for a specific purpose:

Most of my time at work is spent in direct contact with clients.
make/take time to do sth Don't forget to take time to fill out all the necessary forms.

[ C ] an occasion when sth happens:

at a time when Eliminating estate tax would add to the nation's debt at a time when we can least afford it.
at this/that time At that time, I had to travel a lot with my job.
the first/next/last time Share prices rose yesterday for the first time in over two years.
every/each time New "smart meters" show how much water is consumed every time a power shower is run or a washing machine is used.

[ S or U ] the time shown on a clock or a watch:

the time of sth The time of the meeting has been put back to 11.30 am.
What time shall we start?

[ U ] the time in one country or part of the world that is different from the time in another country or part of the world:

The phone went on sale at 6 p.m. local time.
against time

if you do something against time, you have to work very hard to finish it by the agreed time or date:

We are working against time to get the stadium finished for the opening ceremony.
a race/battle/fight against time The race against time to stop deforestation has begun.
ahead of time

if you do something ahead of time, you do it early or before something else happens:

You must arrive at the airport two hours ahead of time in order to go through security.
all the time/the whole time

for the whole of a period of time:

New technology means that employees no longer need to be at their desks all the time.

if something happens all the time or the whole time, it happens very often:

Subscribers to our service get as many as 75 channels, with new ones coming all the time.
at a time

if something happens for days, weeks, months, etc. at a time, it continues for the whole of that period:

Computer viruses are capable of crippling large companies, often for days at a time.

in groups or amounts of a particular number:

Guest designers - as many as 100 at a time - have been invited to work with resident designers.
at all times formal

always or at any time of the day:

Calls to other mobiles cost 40p a minute at all times.
This exit must be kept clear at all times.
behind time

happening or being done later than expected:

Trains are running behind time due to an accident on the line.
in good time

early, or allowing more than enough time for something to happen:

Remember to send your tax form to us in good time.
in time for sth

before something else starts or happens:

Just in time for the fall buying season, the company has announced a range of new handheld PCs.
it's time for sb to do sth

used to say that something must be done immediately or very soon:

It's time for Congress to pass a stimulus package to kick-start the economy.
keep up/move/change with the times

to allow ideas, methods, etc. to develop and remain modern:

The BBC knows it has to move with the times in its negotiations over broadcasting rights.
a matter/question of time

used to say that something will happen in the future, probably quite soon:

It may be just a matter of time until a budget airline introduces a crew-free plane.
You'll find a job eventually - it's only a question of time.
nine times out of ten/99 times out of 100

used to say that something nearly always happens in a particular way or nearly always produces a particular result:

Nine times out of ten, if you propose an idea, someone will argue with it.
ten/20/100, etc. times better/bigger/worse, etc.

used when you compare two things to say how much better, bigger, worse, etc. something is than something else:

The median wealth of people with ISAs is 20 times greater than that of the general population.
on time

at the agreed or expected time:

We are committed to completing the project on time and on budget.
I expect all my staff to get to work on time.
the time has come/the time is ripe for sth

used to emphasize that something must be done or dealt with immediately:

We feel the time has come for him to resign.
With a falling housing market in Europe, the time is ripe for property auctions.
time is money

used to say that if you waste time you are also losing money:

For the oil industry time is money, and in most cases it's cheaper to pay compensation and move to another site than wait for a board hearing.
time is of the essence

used to say that you should not wait or waste time before doing something important or urgent:

Environmentalists argue that time is of the essence in redirecting transportation money from roads to transit.

timeverb [ T ]

uk /taɪm/ us

to plan the time at which an activity or event starts to happen:

Timing a buy or sell recommendation well is often partly a question of luck.
be timed to do sth The bid had been timed to give the company a head start over their rivals in the venture.
perfectly/well/badly timed Their launch of an international property fund looks to be perfectly timed.

(Definition of “time” from the Cambridge Business English Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)

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Despite its few tentative good points, the signal you are sending out by means of this directive is the wrong one, and it is being sent at the wrong time.
We must look for ways of breaking through this and putting an end to the biggest humanitarian scandal of our time.
The message has got across that we can exercise the necessary caution and, at the same time, make progress in increasing production.
I am afraid, however, that the situation is still alarming and there is no time to lose: we still can and must do much more.
I hope that this time things will work much better, thanks to the progress that has been achieved as far as temporary protection is concerned.
At the same time, more stringent monitoring of state subsidies is required, as well as a review of the rules governing regional aid.
We therefore do have enough time.
The reform we are now studying must be developed, to enable information facilitating multiannual comparisons to be made available to the monitoring bodies in good time.
I hope this list will evolve over time as new diseases appear, in order to increase the efficiency of product distribution and quality control frameworks.
Clear legislation would, at the same time, mean that it would be easier to overcome many of the practical obstacles to people's freedom of movement that still exist.

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