in the nick of time

Explanation: What is an idiom?

At the last possible moment, just before it's too late.


"How did your interview go, John?"

"Well, I was nearly late for a start"

"Oh no"

"Yeah. I nearly missed the train. I had to get a taxi to the station. I arrived in the nick of time, just as it was about to leave. Good job too; the next train wasn't due to leave for an hour."

"Lucky for you"

"Not really. I didn't get the job."

"Never mind. Have a drink and forget about it."

"Pint of lager please mate"


Sometime round about the 1580s the phrase in the nick or in the very nick began to be used for the critical moment, the exact instant at which something has to take place. The idea seems to have been that a nick was a narrow and precise marker, so that if something was in the nick it was precisely where it should be. It seems that users of the expression pretty soon afterwards found this association of ideas needed some elaboration, so started to add of time to the expression, and that's the way it has stayed ever since.

Category: i,time

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