In the nick of time

In the nick of time is an idiom that has been in use for hundreds of years. We will examine the meaning of the idiom in the nick of time, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

In the nick of time means at the most important moment or at the last possible moment. Any delay would have meant the action occurred too late. In the nick of time has it roots in the 1580s, when in the nick meant at the critical moment. The image is of a nick or notch in a stick, which made a precise measurement. By the 1600s, the prepositional phrase of time was added to the idiom, and in the nick of time has been a popular expression ever since.

Examples

Friends from work who wouldn’t be shooed away and police officers who took the time to care led to help in the nick of time for an Adairsville man. (The Rome News-Tribune)

Some of Byton’s competitors have managed to secure investment in the nick of time. (The Financial Times)

What I thought was going to take three years ended up taking 11, with some corporate sponsors coming in in the nick of time to help make it a reality. (The Napa Valley Register)