What Does In the Twinkling of an Eye Mean?

In the Twinkling of an Eye Meaning

Definition: In a very short amount of time.

People use this as a poetic way to describe something that happened extremely quickly.

Origin of In the Twinkling of an Eye

The idiomatic meaning is closely related to the literal meaning of this expression. Imagine looking into someone’s eyes, and seeing a flash of light reflect off of them. This twinkle would occur quite rapidly.

The reference to this idea of the blink or twinkle of an eye comes from the Bible. Writing of the Last Judgment, he says,

  • Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. (1 Corinthians 15: 51-52)

Shakespeare later used it in 1596 in The Merchant of Venice:

  • I’ll take my leave of the Jew in the twinkling of an eye.

Examples of In the Twinkling of an Eye

in a twinkle of an eye In the conversation below, two friends are discussing a fight that one of them had with his brother.

Scott: You seem stressed. What’s up?

Tony: I had a huge argument with my brother. I’m not sure what happened, but he just started yelling at me out of nowhere.

Scott: Are you sure you didn’t do something to make him angry?

Tony: I’m pretty sure. We were just sitting quietly eating lunch, and he was totally calm. Then he got a text, and in the twinkling of an eye, his entire attitude became aggressive.

Scott: I guess he learned something bad about you in the text.

in a twinkling of an eye Two co-workers use the expression while talking about their children.

Richard: I’m so exhausted. I tried to put my son to bed at his normal bedtime, but he just wouldn’t fall asleep.

Miranda: That’s too bad. I don’t have that problem with my daughter. She has really high energy, but then right around her bedtime, in the twinkling of an eye, she’ll fall right asleep. I was worried she was narcoleptic for a bit, but the doctors assured me that she just falls asleep quickly.

More Examples

This quote is from how immigrants to America had their names changed without their permission.

  • Immigrants Joseph Dobrjan and Aniele Slezak’s Euro-American assimilation has little to do with American exceptionalism. Baldwin (“The Price of the Ticket”) writes: “They come through Ellis Island, where Giorgio becomes Joe, Pappavasiliu becomes Palmer, Evangelos becomes Evans, Goldsmith becomes Smith or Gold, and Avakian becomes King. So with a painless change of name, and in the twinkling of an eye, one becomes a white American.–Press Citizen

The second example is about gun control.

  • “At that moment, in the twinkling of an eye, everyone’s lives, some of their destinies were interrupted,” Taylor Jones said. Breon never got to have her first boyfriend or attend her prom. The gunmen who shot into the party, who were 16 and 19 at the time, were eventually sentenced to a combined 400 years in prison. –LA Times


The phrase in the twinkling of an eye means in an instant.