What Does Time Waits for No Man Mean?

Time Waits for No Man Meaning

Definition: No one can stop or control time.

The full expression is time and tide wait for no man.

Origin of Time and Tide Wait for No Man

This expression has existed since at least the 1200s. One of the earliest uses is from St. Marher in 1225.

  • And te tide and te time þat tu iboren were, schal beon iblescet.

Another early variation of the phrase was,

  • Tyde nor time tarrieth no man.

In this phrase, tide refers to the seas’ tide. Time, obviously, refers to time itself.

While the exact origin of this phrase is unclear, it comes from the unstoppable march of time.

Examples of Time and Tide Wait for No Man

time waits for no man quote Two friends are rushing to catch their plane.

Kira: I’ve been ready for half an hour. What are you doing? We’re going to be late!

Dan: I know! I’m sorry. I’m almost ready. I just need to pack a few more things.

Kira: What? You’re still in there packing? We don’t have time for that. Just grab your passport and we can buy anything else that we need once we get there.

Dan: Okay, okay. Just one more minute. I’m almost done!

Kira: No! No more waiting. Time waits for no man, and the plane won’t wait for us either if we don’t get there on time.

Dan: Okay, I’m coming!

time and tide wait for no man originThe following example involves two women discussing past regrets.

Gertrude: I can’t believe how fast life goes.

Ruby: Why do you say that?

Gertrude: I’m getting older, and there are still so many things that I’ve never done. I have so many regrets about missed opportunities.

Ruby: Well, it’s not too late! You can still do those things.

Gertrude: No. Not anymore. I always wanted to travel the world, but I have too many responsibilities now. Time waits for no man, and no woman. I wish I could stop time so I could do all the things I wanted to, but I can’t.

More Examples

This excerpt is about a moment that changed the life of an athlete.

  • At home or work, that moment always is with him. Time waits for no man, but that particular time carries significant weight for this man. –New York Daily News

This excerpt is from an article about watches.

  • Time waits for no man. But there are men who will wait for time – the right timepiece. And we’re not talking about a smartwatch, the advent of which, while remarkably tech-y, is anathema to those who cherish classical wristwatches. –USA Today


The phrase time waits for no man is another way to say that the passing of time is unstoppable, and it will march on regardless of what anyone says or does.