What does the idiom "be ahead of one's time" mean?

Are you using the idiom be ahead of one's time but not sure about its meaning? Using idioms, which are important elements of spoken and written language, in the right place strengthens your language skills. Examine the meaning of the be ahead of one's time idiom and the situations in which it is used.

Meaning of "be ahead of one's time"


The idiom “be ahead of one’s time” is used to describe a person who is ahead of their peers in terms of thinking or understanding, or to describe something that is ahead of its time in terms of technology or ideas. It is typically used in a positive or admiring sense, suggesting that the person or idea is very advanced and visionary. It implies that the person has ideas or a vision that will require others to catch up with in order to understand, and thus the person is ahead of their time.


The phrase “be ahead of one’s time” is thought to originate from the late 1700s in England. One of the earliest known uses of the phrase is in the “Morning Post” of 1793, where it was used to describe an individual who was “ahead of his time” in terms of scientific ideas. The phrase quickly gained popularity and is now often used by English speakers to describe someone who is ahead of their peers.


The idiom “be ahead of one’s time” is used in both spoken and written English. It can be used in both informal and formal contexts and is generally a positive expression. It can be used to praise someone’s intelligence, ideas, or level of understanding, and is often used to describe individuals or inventions that have made a lasting impact on society.

Example Sentences

  • We are always amazed at the inventiveness of Thomas Edison, he was truly ahead of his time.
  • Steve Jobs was an innovator and a visionary, he was definitely ahead of the curve.
  • The Wright Brothers were ahead of the game when it came to aeronautics.
  • Jacob was always thinking outside the box and coming up with ideas no one else had, he was undoubtedly ahead of his time.

The meanings of the words in the "be ahead of one's time" idiom

The Surprising Origins of Everyday English Idioms

Many English idioms have surprisingly dark origins, often rooted in violence, death, and superstition. For instance, the phrase "raining cats and dogs" is said to have originated in the 17th century, when heavy rain would often cause dead animals to wash up on the streets. Meanwhile, the idiom "rule of thumb" is believed to have originated from a law that allowed men to beat their wives with a stick no thicker than their thumb.


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