What Does The Clock Is Ticking Mean?

The Clock in Ticking Meaning

Definition: There’s not much time left; hurry up.

This expression is an indirect way to urge someone to go faster. It reminds the person that there isn’t an infinite amount of time for something to happen.

Origin of the Clock is Ticking

It is unclear exactly when this idiom originated, but it started to increase in popularity around the second half of the 1900s.

It most likely relates to the idea that a ticking clock reminds someone of the passage of time. It keeps them aware of managing their time efficiently.

Examples of the Clock is Ticking

body clock is tickingIn the dialogue below, two men use the idiom while on a fishing trip.

Robert: We’ve been here for a day and a half, and we still haven’t caught anything!

Marty: I know. You have to be patient. Sometimes the fish are biting, and sometimes they aren’t. If we stay here long enough, I’m sure we’ll catch something.

Robert: I agree, but the clock is ticking! We have to go back home in a few hours. If we don’t catch something soon, we won’t have time to catch anything before we leave.

Marty: Well, there’s really nothing else we can do other than wait.

The second dialogue shows two students talking about the cookies they are baking.

Josh: What time does the party start?

Jeff: As I told you before, it starts at 7. I should remind you that it is already 6:30, so we don’t have much time left.

Josh: I know. I’m sorry I started baking the cookies for the party so late. I’m going as fast as I can.

Jeff: I understand, but try to go a little bit faster. The clock is ticking, you know!

Josh: I know! I’ll speed up the process as much as possible.

More Examples

This excerpt is from a movie review. It says that the heroes need to hurry to beat the evil villain.

  • The clock is ticking, too, because the nefarious Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) has emerged from an ancient ocean slumber to terrorize the town, find an all-powerful crystal and steal enough gold to reform the enormous monster Goldar. –USA Today

This excerpt is about a government agency that needs to hurry.

  • There’s no immediate rush for answers since Congress two years ago extended ISS operations until 2024. But the clock is ticking: the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 President Trump signed Tuesday requires the agency begin charting the space station’s future beyond 2024. –USA Today


The phrase the clock is ticking is an expression that encourages someone to rush.