12 Other Ways to Say “Passing Time”

Other Ways to Say Passing Time

The phrase “passing time” is quite common. It talks about pleasantly passing the time, maybe when you are bored or have nothing to do. The words make it sound like time keeps moving forward even if you don’t have much to do. People use this phrase a lot when talking about different ways to spend time if they are waiting, resting, or just bored.

In this article, we’ll look at other ways of saying that time passes, and each of them gives a slightly different character to things. Using them can help to vary the way you talk about wasting time, making good use of it or just letting go.

So I hope that by learning some alternatives, you will flex your language muscles to capture scenarios related to spending time. Whether it’s to waste time when you’re free, to be productive, or to reflect, these other options should give you some new tools to work with.

Other Ways to Say “Passing Time”

1. Whiling Away the Hours

Example: “She found herself whiling away the hours in the garden, lost in thought.”

Meaning: This expression suggests spending time in a leisurely or aimless manner, often enjoying the passing moments without any particular urgency or purpose. It evokes a sense of gentle relaxation or contemplation.

Usage: Ideal for scenarios where time is spent in a peaceful, unhurried way.

2. Killing Time

Example: “Waiting for the delayed flight, he killed time browsing through the airport shops.”

Meaning: “Killing time” implies spending time doing something unimportant or trivial while waiting for something else to happen. It has a more active connotation, suggesting a deliberate choice to occupy oneself to make waiting more bearable.

Usage: Common in contexts of waiting or brief periods of inactivity.

3. Biding One’s Time

Example: “She was biding her time until the opportunity arose to speak her mind.”

Meaning: This phrase denotes waiting for the right moment to act, often in a strategic or patient manner. It implies an intentional delay, choosing to pass time until a specific opportunity or condition emerges.

Usage: Suitable for situations involving strategic patience or anticipation.

4. Frittering Away Time

Example: “He regretted frittering away time on social media instead of focusing on his studies.”

Meaning: This expression conveys the idea of wasting time on trivial or unproductive activities. It carries a negative connotation, suggesting regret or mismanagement of time.

Usage: Often used in contexts of reflection on time poorly spent.

5. Idling Away Time

Example: “On the sunny afternoon, they idled away time by the riverside, enjoying the breeze.”

Meaning: Similar to whiling away the hours, this phrase emphasizes spending time in leisurely activities without any particular goal or urgency. It often carries a positive connotation of relaxation and enjoyment.

Usage: Ideal for describing moments of leisure and relaxation.

6. Spending Time

Example: “She enjoys spending time with her family during the weekends.”

Meaning: A neutral and versatile expression, it simply means to use time in a particular manner or activity. It can be applied to both productive and leisurely activities.

Usage: Applicable in a wide range of contexts where time is allocated to specific activities or people.

family having lunch

7. Occupying Oneself

Example: “To occupy himself during the long journey, he dove into a novel he’d been meaning to read.”

Meaning: This phrase suggests engaging in an activity to keep oneself busy or entertained. It implies an active choice of engagement to pass the time.

Usage: Suitable for scenarios where individuals seek activities to fill time.

8. Dallying

Example: “They dallied in the marketplace, taking in the sights and sounds without haste.”

Meaning: Dallying implies a leisurely or aimless spending of time, often with a sense of lingering or meandering without urgency.

Usage: Often used in contexts of leisurely exploration or unhurried activity.

9. Loafing

Example: “He was accused of loafing on the job instead of completing his tasks.”

Meaning: Loafing refers to idling or lazing around, often in a context where more productive activity is expected. It carries a negative connotation of laziness or avoidance of work.

Usage: Typically used in contexts where inactivity or lack of productivity is highlighted.

10. Lingering

Example: “After the meeting, she lingered in the café, savoring her coffee and the quiet moment.”

Meaning: Lingering implies staying in a place longer than necessary, often for enjoyment or to savor the moment. It can convey a sense of leisurely passing time.

Usage: Suitable for situations where individuals choose to stay longer in a moment or place for enjoyment.

11. Killing Time

Example: “Stranded at the station, they killed time playing cards until the train arrived.”

Meaning: This expression implies engaging in an activity to make waiting more bearable or to pass time that would otherwise be spent in idleness.

Usage: Common in situations of waiting or when seeking to make productive use of brief periods of downtime.

12. Marking Time

Example: “He felt like he was just marking time in his current job, waiting for a better opportunity to come along.”

Meaning: Marking time suggests passing time without progress or significant activity, often in anticipation of something more meaningful or significant.

Usage: Often used in contexts of waiting for change or progress.

12 Other Ways to Say Passing Time Infographic

When to Use Different “Passing Time” Alternatives

In selecting the appropriate way to express “passing time,” it’s helpful to consider the setting and purpose of the conversation. Here’s how to choose the right phrase based on different contexts:

Casual Settings

For casual settings where the conversation revolves around leisurely activities or relaxation, phrases like “Whiling Away the Hours,” “Idling Away Time,” or “Dallying” are perfect. These expressions evoke a sense of enjoyment and relaxation, ideal for discussions about spending time in a laid-back manner, such as lounging in a park, meandering through a city, or simply enjoying a quiet moment at home.

Situations of Waiting

When you’re talking about periods of waiting or trying to make such intervals more tolerable, “Killing Time” or “Occupying Oneself” fit well. These phrases imply an active effort to fill time with activities, such as reading, browsing through shops, or engaging in a hobby, making them suitable for scenarios like waiting for an appointment or passing time during a commute.

Strategic or Anticipatory Contexts

In scenarios that involve waiting for the right moment or anticipating a future event, “Biding One’s Time” is particularly apt. This expression is useful in strategic discussions or when patience is a virtue, such as waiting for the perfect opportunity in a career move or planning a surprise. It suggests a calculated approach to passing time, with an emphasis on the payoff of patience.

Reflecting on Time Management

When the focus is on the misuse or poor management of time, consider using “Frittering Away Time” or “Loafing.” These phrases are suitable for conversations about procrastination, inefficiency, or the regret of not using time wisely. They’re often used in reflective or critical contexts, highlighting areas for personal improvement or changes in habits.

Versatile and Neutral Use

For a more neutral tone that can apply to various activities without suggesting a judgment on how time is spent, “Spending Time” is universally applicable. This phrase can be seamlessly integrated into discussions ranging from productive tasks to leisurely pursuits, making it versatile for conversations about work, hobbies, family time, or personal interests.


The way we talk about time passing shows how rich language can be.

There are lots of nuanced phrases that let us say different things about our experiences.

If you’re into exploring how we use words and metaphors around time, check out the Oxford English Dictionary website.

You can look up how expressions are used going way back, see how they’re related, and notice little differences.

It’s a great way to appreciate how language shapes how we see time unfolding. We have some general thoughts, but that website lets you dive way deeper into word origins and stuff around time.

Categorized as Casual

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