in the nick of time

in the nick of time

Meaning

  • almost too late
  • at the last possible second
  • at a pivotal or important moment

Example Sentences

  1. He arrived at the wedding in the nick of time.
  2. The ambulance arrived in the nick of time. If they had been 5 minutes later he would have died.
  3. His speech was delivered in the nick of time. I was beginning to think that the people were going to start fighting.
  4. You cannot keep arriving in the nick of time. Make sure to check your watch tomorrow so that you can be early enough to help.
  5. You have to add the baking soda in the nick of time, otherwise it won’t work.

Origin

The phrase used to be “in the nick” and dates back to the 1500s, when nick meant “the critical moment”. A nick-stick was used to keep track of time, points and transactions that took place. It was especially useful in sporting events.

A nick is a small notch that is used as a marker. It is very small and precise. Thus, if something is done “in the nick” it is done at the exact place or time it should be.

The idiom “in the nick of time” has only been recorded since 1643.

Synonyms

  • last-minute
  • recent
  • just in time
  • eleventh-hour
  • not a moment too soon
  • after everything or everyone else
  • last-ditch
  • at the critical moment

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