Catch Word #174 – In the nick of time

What do you do with your time? In English, you can do a lot with it, like waste it, kill it, or be in the nick of it. Join Andrew and Suzanne as they explain two time-related expressions: in the nick of time and to kill time.

Fun fact

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the oldest surviving clock in England is at Salisbury Cathedral and dates CW174_nick_of_timefrom 1386!

Expressions included in the learning materials

  • In the nick of time
  • To kill time
  • To snatch
  • To keep yourself busy
  • A waste of time

Sample Dialogue

Andrew: Today our theme for our Catchword episode is time. Today,
we are going to introduce you to two expressions that you can use to talk about time. And so the first one is in the nick of time.
Suzanne: Yeah, and that’s when you really accomplish something, or think of something, or make an action just at the last possible moment, but you do make it.

Exactly. So when something happens in the nick of time, it occurs right at the very last second that it’s possible. So, to go back to your ticket example, you were able to buy these tickets at the very last moment, just before they sold out. And that’s when we use this expression in the nick of time, at that last instant you bought the tickets.


Yes, it’s like crossing the finish line at the very last second.


Yeah, just before somebody else passes you, you cross the line first and you
win the race.

Suzanne: Do you know why it’s called nick of time?
Andrew: Mmm, this is a very good question. And it’s actually a little bit complicated, but I did look it up on the internet, I did some research, and this expression is very old. It can be traced back to the late 1500s. So, wow, this expression is really old.
Suzanne: Wow. Yeah.
Andrew: And apparently a nick back in the old days—this is a word we don’t really use
anymore except for in this expression—but a nick was kind of a notch on a
stick that was used to measure time.
Suzanne: Oh, OK.
Andrew: And it was also used to keep track of the score of sporting events.

english PodcastAudio/Learning Materials: Culips English Learning Podcast