What Does Pressed for Time Mean?

Pressed for Time Meaning

Definition: In a hurry.

Origin of Pressed for Time

The exact origin of this phrase is unknown. Some people assume that pressed in this idiom is related to the verb press, as in to apply weight or pressure on something.

That is true, in a metaphorical sense. Pressure can be a physical weight, or it can be a feeling of stress. There can be pressure to succeed, or pressure because of time constraints.

In this idiom, pressed means feeling pressure due to having little time.

People often use this expression as a polite way to explain why they are in a rush. It can also be a nice way to politely decline a request for help at that moment.

Examples of Pressed for Time

hard pressed for timeThis example shows one woman requesting help from another at work.

Bella: Hannah! I’m so glad that you happened to be walking past. This printer is broken! You are a printer genius. Could you please help me fix it?

Hannah: I’m sorry, Bella! I really wish I had time to help you. Unfortunately, I’m already five minutes late for a meeting with the boss, so I’m pressed for time at the moment.

Bella: Oh, no problem! I completely understand. You’d better get to that meeting fast! Thanks anyway!

Hannah: Sorry!

pressed with timeThe following example shows two college students talking about their plans for the weekend.

Hanh: I’m throwing a birthday party for my roommate this weekend. It should be a lot of fun!

Zhongyi: Cool! I love birthdays.

Hanh: You should come!

Zhongyi: Normally, I would definitely come. However, I’m pressed for time this weekend since I have two big exams on Monday. I need to study the whole weekend to even approach being prepared! I won’t have a moment to spare.

More Examples

This excerpt is from an article about a retired train engine that will come into use again.

  • “We’re always pressed for time getting our engines ready to run, so the chance to work on a multiyear rebuild allowed our crew to expand its skill set, especially on the finer points of boilermaking and locomotive machining,” Babcock said in a news release. –Denver Post

The second example is about a woman who started a dinner business.

  • “So many people are pressed for time and busy, and they love the idea of just having something they can just throw in the CrockPot or in the oven at the end of the day and not worry about it and still have a home-cooked meal for their family,” Brenner said. –Houston Chronicle


The phrase pressed for time means in a rush or short on time.