Flies By: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
July 16, 2023

People say "flies by" to express how quickly time seems to pass, especially when one is busy or engrossed in something. This popular phrase is an integral part of the language, helping to convey the subjective nature of time perception. The main idea behind "flies by" is the accelerated passage of time when one is occupied or enjoying oneself.

In short:

  • The phrase "flies by" means that time passes very quickly. 
  • Its literal meaning pertains to the swift motion of a flying object, like a bird, passing in transit.
  • It can also describe a feeling of surprise or shock at how quickly time has passed.

What Does "Flies By" Mean?

The phrase "flies by" literally suggests something moving at a rapid pace, akin to a bird darting through the sky. However, its figurative interpretation holds more significance. It highlights the perception that time passes swiftly when we're immersed in enjoyable experiences or engrossed in intriguing or demanding tasks.

Key aspects of the idiom's meaning:

  • "Flies by" is used to convey the swift passing of time.
  • When a time period like a day or year "flies by," it feels like it has passed rapidly.
  • The idiom is often used in casual conversation to express surprise or disbelief at how quickly time has elapsed.
  • The expression likely comes from flying creatures' swift and fleeting movement, such as birds or insects.
  • Some synonyms for "flies by" include "whizzes by," "races past," and "passes in a flash."

Where Does "Flies By" Come From?

The idea that time "flies by" has been in use for centuries. Its earliest known appearance dates back to the Latin phrase "tempus fugit," which translates to "time flees," found in Virgil's Georgics, a poem written in 29 BCE.

Historical Example

"It flies by day, and destroys many mice."

- The History of the County of Derby, 1829

"But soon this time of ecstatic joy lapses; our vigor lags; the spirit sinks and time flies by unnoticed as we dismally gaze into empty air, seeking to understand the mystery which envelops us."

- The Coast, 1908

10 Examples of "Flies By" in Sentences

Here are ten examples of sentences using "flies by" in various contexts:

  • The meeting was so engaging that time just seemed to fly by.
  • She was living the dream and didn’t notice how fast the years flew by.
  • I can't believe it's already Friday; this week really flew by.
  • One fine day, I woke up and realized that the years had flown by.
  • Time flies by in the blink of an eye, so let's ring in the new year together.
  • When I'm engrossed in a good book, time flies by.
  • What can I say? The days fly by fast when we're together.
  • My vacation flew by, and before I knew it, it was time to go back to work.
  • We had some happy days together, but they flew by too quickly.
  • I was surprised at how quickly the lecture flew by.
  • I hope to see you soon. Time flies by when we’re apart.

Examples of "Flies By" in Pop Culture

Given its relevance to the human experience of time, the phrase "flies by" often finds its way into pop culture, such as movies, TV shows, and music.

Some notable examples are:

  • The song "Time Flies" by Porcupine Tree uses the phrase to convey the fleeting nature of life.
  • In the movie "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," the character Ferris famously says, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it," a sentiment that echoes the meaning of time flying by.
  • In the TV show "Breaking Bad," an episode titled "Fly" centers around the theme of time flying by amidst life-changing events.

Other/Different Ways to Say "Flies By"

While "flies by" is a widely used and understood phrase, other idioms in English communicate a similar meaning.

Here are a few examples:

  • Whizzes by
  • Races past
  • Passes in a flash
  • Speeds by
  • Rushes past
  • Goes by swiftly
  • Passes quickly

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Flies By":

  • What does "flies by" mean?

The idiom "flies by" is used to describe the sensation of time passing quickly, especially during engaging or enjoyable activities.

  • What is the origin of "flies by"?

The phrase "flies by" likely originates from the observation of fast-moving flying creatures, such as birds or insects, symbolizing the swift passage of time.

  • How can I use "flies by" in a sentence?

You can use "flies by" to convey the quick passage of time. For example, "Time flies by while he's searching for his dog and he's starting to get worried."

  • Can "flies by" be used in a professional context?

Yes, "flies by" can be used in a professional context, such as during a meeting or conference, to express how quickly time seemed to pass.

  • What are some synonyms of "flies by"?

Some synonyms include "whizzes by," "races past," "passes in a flash," and "speeds by."

  • Can "flies by" be used in written communication?

Yes, "flies by" can be used in written communication, such as in an email or a blog post, to express the sensation of time passing swiftly.

  • Is it appropriate to use "flies by" in formal writing?

While it's not typically used in formal or academic writing, "flies by" can be used in more informal or conversational writing contexts.

  • Does "flies by" have a negative connotation?

No, "flies by" generally has a neutral or positive connotation. It's often associated with enjoyable experiences, during which time seems to pass particularly fast.

  • Can "flies by" be used in a literal sense?

No, "flies by" is typically used as a figurative expression to convey the swift passage of time, rather than referring to an object or creature literally flying by.

  • Can "flies by" be used with events that last a long time?

Yes, even for long events, if they are engaging or enjoyable, you can use "flies by" to express that it didn't seem to take a long time because you were having a good time.

Final Thoughts About "Flies By"

The phrase "flies by" is a poetic way of expressing the fleeting nature of time, especially during moments of joy, excitement, or deep focus. It underscores the importance of making the most of each moment because time waits for no one.

Here's a quick summary:

  • "Flies by" conveys the sensation of time passing quickly.
  • It's commonly used in both casual and formal conversations.
  • We use it when thinking about the past, saying it felt like it went by in a flash.
  • It means you were so into something that you didn't even notice time flying by.
  • The phrase has many synonyms, such as "whizzes by," "races past," and "passes in a flash."

In the end, it's not just an idiom but a reminder to cherish our time because it truly does fly by!

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