Run out the clock

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Run out the clock is an American idiom that dates back decades. We will examine the meaning of the common idiom run out the clock, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

Run out the clock means to stall or cause a delay that gives one an advantage; for instance, if a worker is going home soon and does not want to begin a new task, he may run out the clock by checking emails or chatting with co-workers. Often, politicians will defeat an initiative not by directly opposing it, but by simply not taking action and running out the clock on a legislative session. The expression run out the clock is derived from American sports that depend on timed periods or quarters, such as basketball or football. In sports, a team may run out the clock by making safe, meaningless plays so the players may maintain their lead. The expression came into use in the mid-twentieth century; related phrases are runs out the clock, ran out the clock, running out the clock.


“You have put our children terribly at risk, and the only way you are being creative right now is to come up with ways to not do it, to run out the clock,” parent June Raegner said.  (Montclair News)

The Raiders are still in good position but the score no longer reflects how lopsided the game has felt — and they can’t simply run out the clock with 3:50 still to play. (Las Vegas Sun)

Congressional committee on Jan. 6 has plenty to investigate, as Trump tries to run out the clock (Chicago Sun-Times)

Enjoyed reading about this idiom? Check out some others we covered:

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