Until Then: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
July 5, 2023

When we use the phrase "until then," we mean that a certain action or event will continue or remain in its current state until a particular point or moment. This idiom often denotes the continuation of a process, an activity, or a state of affairs until a specified point.

In short:

The idiom "until then" refers to a duration of time leading up to a specific moment or event.

What Does "Until Then" Mean?

In its most comprehensive sense, "until then" signifies a period of time extending up to a certain point or event. People use it to indicate that something will continue happening, remain the same, or be delayed until a particular moment.

  • It can be used to refer to the period before an upcoming event. For instance, "I'm studying for my finals; until then, I can't join you for dinner."
  • It's often used to highlight that a current state or activity will continue. An example might be: "I'll be working in this office until then."
  • It can also denote a delay in action or response until a specific moment or event. You might say, "Until then, I won't be able to make a decision."

Where Does "Until Then" Come From?

It is not easy to trace the origin of the phrase “until then,” but it has been a part of the English language for a long time. This phrase is related to the concept of time and the order of events, which are essential in all languages and cultures.

Historical Usage

"I had drank spirits until I was so much intoxicated that I dare not come back until then."

- Life of William Grimes The Runaway Slave, 1825

10 Examples of "Until Then" in Sentences

To better comprehend the idiom's usage, let's examine its use in a variety of contexts:

  • The book will be published next year, but until then, you can read the draft online.
  • We'll work hard to get things back on track, but until then, we must be patient and focused.
  • The moment she decided to take the initiative, it changed everything. Until then, she had been passive about her career.
  • Until then, enjoy being out and about, and make the most of your time exploring new places.
  • The park is closed until then due to renovations.
  • We can put a pin in that idea for now, but until then, let's explore other options.
  • They plan to get married next spring; until then, they're living apart.
  • I won't be available until then due to my busy schedule.
  • Ping me when you’re free. Until then, I’ll wait for your message.
  • My trip starts tomorrow; until then, I'll be packing and preparing.

Examples of "Until Then" in Pop Culture

From books to films, the phrase "until then" is often found in popular culture, reflecting its frequent use in everyday language:

  • The 1951 song "Until Then" by Stuart Hamblen, a popular country and gospel song artist, uses the phrase in its title and lyrics.
  • "Until Then" by Gail Kittleson is a 2019 historical fiction novel that tells the stories of three women whose lives are connected by a handkerchief found at the scene of the Bethnal Green tragedy.
  • "Until Then" is a 2018 drama movie directed by Basil Alamri. It tells the story of a teenage boy named Adam, who is diagnosed with terminal cancer and has only a few months to live.

Other/Different Ways to Say "Until Then"

There are several synonyms and phrases that can be used as alternatives to "until then," depending on the context:

  • Up to that point
  • Before that time
  • Prior to that
  • Till then
  • Before then
  • Up until that moment

Each of these alternatives offers a slightly different nuance, so choose the one that fits your context best.

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Until Then":

  • What is the meaning of "until then"?

The phrase "until then" typically refers to a period of time that extends up to a certain moment or event. It often indicates the continuation or persistence of something until a particular point.

  • What is the origin of the phrase "until then"?

The origin of the idiom "until then" isn't clear, but it appears to have been a common part of English language usage for centuries, tied to our understanding of time and the sequence of events.

  • Can "until then" have negative connotations?

"Until then" itself does not carry negative connotations. The positive, neutral, or negative connotation comes from the context in which it's used.

  • Can I use "until then" in formal writing?

Yes, "until then" is suitable for both formal and informal contexts. Its use is universally accepted in English language writing and speech.

  • How can I replace "until then" in a sentence?

Phrases like "up to that point," "before that time," or "till then" can be used as alternatives to "until then," depending on the context.

  • Is "until then" a universal idiom?

Yes, "until then" is used and understood by English speakers around the world, making it a universal idiom.

  • Do people use "until then" in everyday conversation?

Yes, "until then" is a common phrase used frequently in everyday conversation, as well as in writing.

  • Does "until then" imply a temporary state?

Yes, "until then" generally refers to a state or condition that lasts until a certain point in time, implying that the situation may change after that point.

  • Can I use "until then" to describe future events?

Yes, "until then" can be used to discuss future events. It refers to the period leading up to a particular future point or event.

  • Can "until then" be used in a literal sense?

Yes, "until then" is typically used in a literal sense to denote a period extending up to a certain point in time.

Final Thoughts About "Until Then"

The phrase "until then" provides us with a simple way to express the period leading up to a certain moment in time, contributing to the richness of our language.

  • The idiom usually denotes a temporary state lasting until a certain point.
  • Its origins may be vague, but its use is widespread and accepted in both informal and formal contexts.
  • "Until then" is a flexible phrase that fits comfortably into various scenarios, enhancing our expression of time and sequence.

So, the next time you want to express something happening up to a particular moment or event, consider using the phrase "until then."

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