last minute: Idiom Meaning and Origin

What does ‘last minute’ mean?

The idiom "last minute" refers to the final moments before a deadline or event. It suggests that something is done or happens with very little time or notice remaining, often causing rushed or stressful situations.

Idiom Explorer

"The Final Countdown"

The idiom "last minute" is a commonly used phrase in American English. It is used to describe doing something at the final moment, just before it is too late. The term "last minute" originated in the early 17th century and has since become widely adopted in everyday language.

One interesting fact about the idiom "last minute" is that it is derived from the combination of the words "last" and "minute." "Last" refers to the final or ultimate, while "minute" signifies a unit of time equal to sixty seconds. The phrase "last minute" therefore conveys the concept of the final moment or the very end of a period of time.

Furthermore, the idiom "last minute" is frequently used in a negative context, indicating that time has run out or that there is little time remaining to complete a task. It can be associated with a sense of urgency or deadline pressure. When someone says they are doing something at the "last minute," it suggests a sense of procrastination or disorganization. It can also imply a sense of spontaneity or the need for quick decision-making.

Additionally, the idiom can be used figuratively to express the idea of a final opportunity or chance. It can imply that there may not be another chance in the future or that this is the ultimate opportunity before it is too late. This usage often conveys a sense of importance or significance attached to the impending event or action.

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The idiom "last minute" can also carry a sense of excitement or thrill. In some cases, the act of doing something at the last minute can be seen as adventurous or daring. It can imply a willingness to take risks or embrace spontaneity, adding a sense of excitement to the situation.

In relation to the idiom "last minute," there are three related idioms: "at the last minute," "eleventh hour," and "last thing." These idioms further emphasize the sense of urgency or time running out that is associated with the concept of the last minute.

The phrase "at the last minute" is similar to "last minute" but specifically indicates that an action or decision is made right before a deadline or the final moment. It suggests that there was little time remaining and the action was done just in the nick of time.

Another related idiom is "eleventh hour." This phrase is often used interchangeably with "last minute" and refers to a situation where something is done at the very last possible moment. It conveys a sense of urgency and the idea that time is almost up.

The third related idiom is "last thing." This expression typically means doing something right before the end or as the final action in a series of events. It can be used to emphasize that the action took place at the very end, possibly even after everything else has been completed.

When it comes to the idiom "last minute" and its related idioms, they all share a common theme of time running out or acting at the final moment. They convey a sense of urgency, whether it is due to a deadline, a limited opportunity, or simply the need to make a quick decision. These idioms capture the tension and possibilities that come with acting at the last minute or right before it is too late.

Example usage

Examples of how the idiom "last minute" can be used in a sentence:

  1. I worked on my presentation until the last minute.
  2. We decided to book our vacation at the last minute.
  3. John always procrastinates and completes his assignments at the last minute.

The idiom "last minute" refers to the final moments before a deadline or a scheduled event. It implies that something is done or happens with very little time remaining. In the first example, it suggests that the person worked on their presentation until the final moments before it was due. The second example indicates a decision to book a vacation was made just before the deadline or intended departure time. Finally, the third example describes someone's habit of leaving assignments until the end, completing them in the final moments before they are due.

More "Time" idioms