‘Time flies’ – Origin, Meaning, Expansion, and Importance

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‘Time flies’ – Origin, Meaning, Expansion, and Importance

Origin of the proverb.

‘Time flies’ originates in a Latin proverb: ‘tempus fugit’. This Latin phrase (which means, literally ‘time flees’) derives from the poetic works of an ancient Roman author called Virgil.

Virgil’s most famous work is perhaps the epic poem called ‘The Aeneid’. However, the phrase ‘tempus fugit’ is found in his pastoral poems, the ‘Georgics’.

In the ancient Roman world, ‘tempus fugit’ quickly became a common proverb, and once it was translated into English it also became a very popular phrase.

Meaning of this proverb

‘Time flies’ means that time moves very quickly. This proverb is usually used to mean that we do not have as much time as we think we do.

Thus, people often use this proverb to encourage each other to get their projects done right away. Reminding others that ‘time flies’ is a popular way of motivating others to fulfil their goals and achieve their dreams as soon as possible.

This proverb is not usually used in a sense that refers to the literal way in which time progresses. The clocks continue to tick at the same pace all the time! Rather, this proverb is usually used to refer to our perception of time. At certain moments in life, time can appear to be moving more quickly, or slipping through our fingers.

In summary, ‘time flies’ is a proverb that refers to:

    • The need to make the best use of our time.
    • The way in which humans can feel that they have run out of time.
    • The way in which time seems to go faster at certain times than at others.
    • Time passes rapidly or very quickly, particularly when we are engaged in doing something interesting.

Expansion of this idea

This proverb’s meaning relates not to the actual movement of time. Rather, it relates to our perception of time. So, more specifically, it means that time seems to be moving quickly.

When we are enjoying ourselves, time often seems to go more quickly. A good friendship can be measured by the fact that the two friends do not notice time passing as they talk.

Sometimes, this proverb, ‘time flies’ is integrated into a larger proverb. For example, people often say ‘time flies when you’re having fun’. Here, the proverb is being used to refer to the fact that time does not always fly but only at certain times in life. And, there is a lot of truth in the idea that when we are having a great time we sometimes lose track of time because we are concentrating on enjoying ourselves rather than watching the clock.

The wish to slow down time, or to speed up time is a common one in human life. For instance, when we are spending time with a loved one, we often wish that we had more time to spend. And, when we are awaiting an exciting event, we often wish that time would move more quickly so that we can experience that event even sooner!

Our perception of time has long fascinated philosophers. They have asked themselves whether time exists objectively or whether it exists only in our perceptions of it. It is certainly true that time sometimes seems to go more quickly at some times than others. In 2016, scientists claimed to have isolated certain neurons in the brain. These neurons, they argued, determined how quickly we thought time was moving. Perhaps there is a biological basis to the fact that some hours seem to zoom past.

Why does time fly so fast?

There are many reasons why we might feel that time is going past very quickly. Some of them are positive, but a few of them are reasons that we might like to avoid.

1. We are having a good time: When we get chatting to an old friend, or when we are absorbed in an activity that we enjoy, time can seem to fly past without us noticing it.

2. We have procrastinated: When we have put off important tasks, and then the deadline approaches, we often feel like time is running by us far too quickly. This perception is usually due to the fact that we feel that we do not have enough time left in order to do all of the things that we want to do. In such cases, we truly are running out of time.

3. We wish the time could be longer: Sometimes, though time is going past at a normal pace, we can feel that it is going too quickly because we want to linger in the moment that we are currently in. This often happens when we are spending time with a loved one: no amount of time with them would be enough and so we will always feel that time is going too quickly.

4. We are asleep: When we sleep, it can often seem that we close our eyes one minute and are awake again the next – and yet, around 8 hours have passed. How can time pass so quickly? This is one of the mysteries of sleep. Of course, the opposite can sometimes be true: sometimes, we can feel that our sleep and our dreams lasted for a much longer time than a mere 7 or 8 hours.

5. Something that we are dreading is on the horizon: When we have to do something that we are not looking forward to, such as heading to the teacher’s office to be told off at school, putting together money to pay the rent or something similar, we can feel like time is rushing us on towards this event. Here, the perception that time is running too quickly comes from our desire to put the dreaded event off as long as possible. Usually, though, when we face our fears, we find that we can surmount them.

Importance of this proverb.

1. Reminding us not to waste time: The proverb motivates us to get our jobs done before we run out of time. We should make the most of the time that we have got, because time is precious. Further, this is a polite proverb to quote before we take our leave of someone.

2. Reflecting on human perception: It is certainly true that humans often feel that ‘time flies’, particularly when we want it to stay still! So, this proverb is important because it is an accurate reflection of the way in which humans see the world. When w are cramming for an exam or on honeymoon we may feel that the time goes more quickly than we want it to, for instance, and in cases like these this proverb is very accurate.

3. Staying in the moment: When we remember this proverb, we remember to appreciate the moment, to live in the present, and to experience the beauty around us wherever we are. When we become aware that time is not only limited but it is also moving more quickly than we often think, we have yet another reason to appreciate and be thankful for the good things in life.

4. Meeting deadlines: This is a very handy proverb to remember when we have a deadline to meet for work or study. Often, we can procrastinate and put off our work because we think that we will always have plenty of time in which to do it. However, this proverb remind us that this is not the case: time is limited and so we should use it well.

5. Keeping track of time: This proverb reminds us that often we do not notice the progress of time and thus that we should keep track of time if we have something that we need to do at a specific time. Whether that means catching a bus home after visiting a friend or arranging a holiday before our break is over, this proverb motivates us to ensure that we do not miss out on the opportunities rushing past us.

6. Focusing on experiences not the clock: The idea that ‘time flies’ can also encourage us to focus not on how much time we have used up in a day but on how we used that time. As time rushes by, what is important is on how we have lived our lives not necessarily on how long our lives are. What is important is not how many hours, minutes or seconds we have had to ourselves but on what we have done with that time and the types of experiences that we have had.

7. A way of expressing enjoyment: As this proverb is very widely used and widely known throughout the world, it is a good phrase to use to tell people how much we have enjoyed their company. When we tell someone that ‘time flies when you’ve having fun’ they will understand that we have had a great time with them. We can also use this proverb as a polite way to say goodbye to someone after a meeting, as it is a quick way of letting them know that we have enjoyed their company but that we now have to depart.

Managing our life well so that we do not procrastinate too much and face difficult tasks head on instead of sitting and worrying about them will help us to feel that time is not an issue for us. Instead, we can enjoy our time on this earth.


‘Time flies’ is a proverb that has been in use for over two millennia. That alone should attest how important it is to human life. This proverb helps us to remember just how precious our time on this earth is, and thus reminding ourselves of this proverb will encourage us to use our time as wisely as possible. Whether than means working hard for school, engaging in acts of kindness, connecting with loved ones or simply spending less time watching TV and more getting out and about and enjoying the beauty of nature, this proverb can motivate us to live life to the full.

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