buy time


buy time


  • to do something in order to postpone an event, a result, etc.
  • to do something in order to be allowed more time.

The idiom “buy time” refers to doing something to create more time before something else happens. It is usually used when one wants to make better preparations for completing a task. In other words, the idiom means an intentional delay in an activity to do something else. 

Example Sentences

  1. I am currently delivering pizza, buying time to apply for a better job.
  2. We went to the coffee shop to buy time for the engineers to complete computer maintenance in our offices.
  3. Most foreigners who live in tenements buy time to look around for comfortable apartments.
  4. Many people lie to their landlords about the late payment of rent to buy time to find another means.
  5. One of the burglars was used to distract the security guard for the gang to buy time to survey the building.
  6. Freelance working buys time for her to look around for a new full-time job.


The idiom “buy time” seems to have its roots at the onset of the 20th century. However, the idiom appears in a book written in the 1850s, but it seems to have been a solitary appearance, making sense exclusively in that context. The phrase appeared in Arthur Schopenhauer’s Counsels and Maxims in 1851:

“To buy books would be a good thing if we also could buy the time to read them.

It wasn’t until a few decades later that it became a popular phrase, as we can see in a 1903 edition of the Willmar Tribune:

“If you don’t intend to buy, call anyway. You will buy some time, and we want you to get to know us and what we have.”

Storekeepers’ ingenious advertising, promising solutions to save time, was most likely the first usage.

“If you buy this product, you are essentially buying time.”

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This phrase appears in Bible. Daniel 2:8. Nebuchadnezzar accuses the dream interpreters of buying time.

‒ Sam Schwartz February 1, 2024

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