Buy Time: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
April 28, 2024

"Buy time" means delaying an event or decision to gain more time to prepare, think, or take action. It is often used in situations where immediate action or decision is required. Still, the person or group involved needs more time to consider their options or to improve their circumstances. For example, suppose someone is not ready to make an important decision. In that case, they might take certain actions to delay the decision-making process, effectively "buying time" to think it over or wait for better conditions.

In short:

  • It means to delay something to gain more time.
  • It is used when more preparation or favorable conditions are needed.

What Does "Buy Time" Mean?

The phrase "buy time" is used metaphorically to describe actions taken to create more time for oneself. It implies a strategic delay, often in situations where immediate action seems necessary, but additional time could lead to better outcomes. The phrase suggests that time is a valuable commodity and that gaining more of it can be advantageous. This can apply to various situations, such as negotiations, decision-making, or managing emergencies.

More about the phrase's meaning:

  • Used to describe a strategy of delaying tactics.
  • Indicates a desire for more time to prepare, think, or change conditions.
  • Can be used in both personal and professional contexts.
  • Often involves creative or clever ways to postpone an immediate requirement.

Where Does "Buy Time" Come From?

The origin of the phrase "buy time" is not entirely clear, but it is rooted in the concept of time as a valuable commodity. The phrase likely evolved from the idea that time, like other valuable resources, can be managed, saved, or even 'purchased' through various means. It reflects the universal understanding of time's importance and the benefits of having more of it in critical situations.

10 Examples of "Buy Time" in Sentences

Here are examples to illustrate how "buy time" is used in different contexts:

  • He tried to buy time by asking for more details during the meeting.
  • He didn’t really care for you. He was just using you to buy time until he found someone better.
  • The company bought time by extending the deadline for the project.
  • She bought time by delaying the decision until she had more information.
  • I tried to buy time, and next thing you know, a better offer was on the table.
  • He requested an extension on his essay due date to buy time for studying.
  • The lawyer bought time by filing a motion to postpone the court hearing.
  • To buy time for the rescue operation, they negotiated with the kidnappers.
  • When the committee wanted an immediate decision, I suggested we buy time to discuss it with more stakeholders.
  • Realizing that opportunities like this are hard to come by, I decided to buy time by asking for a brief extension.

Examples of "Buy Time" in Pop Culture

This phrase is often used in movies, books, and TV shows, especially in scenarios involving suspense, negotiation, or strategy.

Examples include:

  • In Arthur Schopenhauer's Counsels and Maxims, the phrase appears in the context: "To buy books would be a good thing if we also could buy the time to read them."
  • The movie In Time, directed by Andrew Niccol, uses the concept of “buy time” in its plot. The movie is set in a future where people stop aging at 25 but are engineered to live only one more year. Having the means to buy your way out of the situation is a shot at immortal youth.
  • The song “Can’t Buy Time” by Chase Matthew contains the lyrics: "They say time is money / But money can’t buy time / If time is money / Then why can’t money buy time?"
  • The news article “Buying Time Instead of Material Things Will Make You Happier, Study Says” discusses how spending money to buy time instead of material things can lead to greater life satisfaction.

Synonyms: Other/Different Ways to Say "Buy Time"

Here are alternative phrases with similar meanings:

  • Stall for time
  • Delay tactics
  • Play for time
  • Gain time
  • Hold off
  • Postpone
  • Put off
  • Procrastinate
  • Drag one's feet
  • Take one's time

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Buy Time":

  • What does "buy time" mean?

"Buy time" means to delay an event or decision to gain more time for preparation, consideration, or waiting for a more favorable condition.

  • Is "buy time" a formal phrase?

No, it's a colloquial expression often used in everyday language, though it can appear in more formal contexts.

  • Can "buy time" be used in a business context?

Yes, in business, "buying time" can refer to strategies used to delay decisions, negotiations, or actions.

  • Does "buy time" imply deception?

Not necessarily. While it can involve cunning strategies, it's not always associated with deceitful intentions.

  • How can I use "buy time" in a sentence?

"To ensure a better outcome, she decided to buy time before giving her final answer."

  • Is "buy time" always a deliberate action?

Typically, yes. It involves intentional actions or strategies to delay an immediate requirement.

  • Can "buy time" be a positive strategy?

Yes, it can be a beneficial strategy, especially when additional time leads to better decision-making or outcomes.

  • Are there ethical concerns with "buying time"?

It depends on the context and manner in which it is done. Ethical considerations vary based on the intent and impact of the delay.

  • Can "buy time" be used in legal contexts?

Yes, it can be used in legal contexts to refer to tactics like filing motions to delay court proceedings or negotiations.

  • Does "buy time" always involve a negative consequence?

No, buying time can be a neutral or even a positive action, depending on the situation and the outcome of the delay.

  • Is "buy time" a modern phrase?

While its exact origins are unclear, it has been in use for quite some time and is well-established in modern language.

  • Can this phrase be used in sports contexts?

Yes, in sports, "buying time" can refer to strategies to delay play, often to benefit the team in some way.

  • Is "buy time" similar to procrastination?

While similar, procrastination is often seen as avoiding action, whereas "buying time" is a strategic delay for a specific purpose.

Final Thoughts About "Buy Time"

The idiom "buy time" is a useful metaphor for strategic delays in decision-making or action. It applies in various contexts, from personal decision-making to complex business negotiations. The concept underscores the value of time as a resource and the advantages of managing it wisely.

To recap:

  • It signifies strategic delays to gain more time.
  • It can be applied in both personal and professional situations.
  • It is useful for managing immediate requirements and improving outcomes.

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