In the Blink of an Eye – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Would you like a way to say that something happened so fast you could have blinked and it was over? The phrase ‘in the blink of an eye’ is a common English saying that is usually used to imply that something happened extremely fast (or in an instant). This post unpacks the meaning and origin of the saying.

Meaning

The phrase ‘in the blink of an eye’ is a common figurative saying that is used in the English language, although it is also translated to some other languages.

When something happens ‘in the blink of an eye’ then the implication is that something has happened extremely fast, or so quickly that the observer could blink in the time that it happened.

The phrase ‘in the blink of an eye’ does not literally mean that something was always impossible to observe with the human eye, although can only be used to mean that something happened very quickly.

The phrase is most commonly used to refer to actions that are being discussed or observed by the speakers.

The saying can reference something in the past tense, present tense, or might reference something in the future tense.

When something has ‘not happened in the blink of an eye’ then the implication of the reverse phrase is that something has happened slover than wanted or needed.

The common saying ‘New York minute’ can be used to imply the same meaning as ‘in the blink of an eye’.

Example Usage

“He was gone in the blink of an eye, and there I was left standing without my wallet, phone, or pants. I’m not sure how he got the pants.”

“I would have punched him out in the blink of an eye if he had put one shred of that fruit on the pizza that night.”

“There are few things that irritate me as much as how cars just think they can drive by in the blink of an eye without stopping to check out the sign.”

“If you want to know how quick it was, it was over in the blink of an eye and there we were standing around waiting for the Uber.”

Origin

According to online language resources like etymonline.com, the phrase ‘in the blink of an eye’ has been around in English for several centuries.

The phrase ‘in the blink of an eye’ was first used in the 1300 to 1400s, and use of the phrase would continue with some adaptations in the phrase (going from ‘twinkle’ to ‘blink’).

Modern use of the saying is almost unchanged in meaning since the beginning of the phrase.

When someone says that an event has happened ‘in the blink of an eye’, it still means that it happened faster than the participant could blink – either literally, or most often figuratively.

The website Urban Dictionary records the phrase ‘blink of an eye’ from 2018, even though much earlier use of the saying is apparent.

Phrases Similar to In the Blink of an Eye

  • Faster thana New York minute

Phrases Opposite to In the Blink of an Eye

  • N/a

What is the Correct Saying?

  • In the blink of an eye

Ways People May Say In the Blink of an Eye Incorrectly

There are several ways in which someone can use the phrase ‘in the blink of an eye’ in the wrong way, or misunderstand the meaning of the saying.

When someone says ‘in the blink of an eye’ the saying is not always literal, but can mean that something has happened very fast.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase In the Blink of an Eye

There are several correct ways to use the phrase ‘in the blink of an eye’ in conversation or in a text.

When someone says that something has happened ‘in the blink of an eye’, the phrase implies that something has happened very fast or rapidly.

The meaning can sometimes be literal, though is most likely figurative.

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