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

The phrase be ahead of one's time is often used in English, but what does this idiom mean? When idioms are used in the right situations, they strengthen communication and enrich the language. You can communicate more effectively by learning the meaning of be ahead of one's time.

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

Beyond the Literal: Figurative Language in Idioms

Idioms often use figurative language to convey a message that is not meant to be taken literally. For instance, the idiom "bite the bullet" means to endure a painful or difficult situation without complaint, while "hold your horses" means to be patient and wait. Other idioms, like "kick the bucket" or "pop your clogs," use euphemisms to talk about death.


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