Definition: Time

From New World Encyclopedia


From Middle English tyme, time, from Old English tīma (time, period, space of time, season, lifetime, fixed time, favorable time, opportunity), from Proto-West Germanic *tīmō, from Proto-Germanic *tīmô (time), from Proto-Indo-European *deh₂imō, from Proto-Indo-European *deh₂y- (to divide). Cognate with Scots tym, tyme (time), Alemannic German Zimen, Zīmmän (time, time of the year, opportune time, opportunity), Danish time (hour, lesson), Swedish timme (hour), Norwegian time (time, hour), Faroese tími (hour, lesson, time), Icelandic tími (time, season). Related to tide. Not related to Latin tempus.


time (countable and uncountable, plural times)

  1. (uncountable) The inevitable progression into the future with the passing of present and past events.
    Time stops for nobody
    1. (physics) A dimension of spacetime with the opposite metric signature to space dimensions; the fourth dimension.
      Both science-fiction writers and physicists have written about travel through time.
    2. (physics) Change associated with the second law of thermodynamics; the physical and psychological result of increasing entropy.
      Time slows down when you approach the speed of light.
    3. (physics) The property of a system which allows it to have more than one distinct configuration.
      An essential definition of time should entail neither speed nor direction, just change.
  2. A duration of time.
    1. A quantity of availability of duration.
      More time is needed to complete the project.
    2. A measurement of a quantity of time; a numerical or general indication of a length of progression.
      a long time
    3. An experience.
      We had a wonderful time at the party.
    4. An era; (with the, sometimes in plural) the current era, the current state of affairs.
      Roman times
      the time of the dinosaurs
    5. A person's youth or young adulthood, as opposed to the present day.
      In my time, we respected our elders.
    6. Time out; temporary, limited suspension of play.
  3. An instant of time.
    1. How much of a day has passed; the moment, as indicated by a clock or similar device.
      Excuse me, have you got the time?
    2. A particular moment or hour; the appropriate moment or hour for something (especially with prepositional phrase or imperfect subjunctive).
      it’s time for bed
      it's time we were going
    3. A numerical indication of a particular moment.
      at what times do the trains arrive?
    4. An instance or occurrence.
      That’s three times he’s made the same mistake
    5. The hour of childbirth.
    6. (as someone's time) The end of someone's life, conceived by the speaker as having been predestined.
      It was his time.
  4. The measurement under some system of region of day or moment.
    Let's synchronize our watches so we're not on different time.
  5. Ratio of comparison.
    Your car runs three times faster than mine
  6. (music) The measured duration of sounds; measure; tempo; rate of movement; rhythmical division.
    common or triple time
    the musician keeps good time

Usage notes

For the number of occurrences and the ratio of comparison, once and twice are typically used instead of one time and two times. Thrice is uncommon but not obsolescent, and is still common in Indian English.

Typical collocations with time or time expressions.

  • spend - To talk about the length of time of an activity.
  • take - To talk about the length of time of an activity.
  • waste - Used in a similar way to spend but with a negative connotation

Derived terms

  • aftertime
  • birth-time
  • compile-time
  • counter-time
  • downtime
  • high-time
  • holiday-time
  • launch-time
  • long-time
  • off-time
  • real-time
  • run-time
  • sometime
  • sometimes
  • space-time
  • time limit
  • timeout
  • timesheet
  • timeslot
  • timespan
  • timestamp
  • timetable


time (third-person singular simple present times, present participle timing, simple past and past participle timed)

  1. To measure or record the time, duration, or rate of.
    I used a stopwatch to time myself running around the block.
  2. To choose when something begins or how long it lasts.
    The bomb was timed to explode at 9:20 p.m.
  3. To regulate as to time; to accompany, or agree with, in time of movement.
  4. To measure, as in music or harmony.

Derived terms

  • mistime
  • overtime
  • timed
  • time out
  • timer
  • timing



  1. (tennis) Reminder by the umpire for the players to continue playing after their pause.
  2. The umpire's call in prizefights, etc.
  3. A call by a bartender to warn patrons that the establishment is closing and no more drinks will be served.


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