What does the idiom "have time on one's hands" mean?

have time on one's hands is an idiom used by many writers. When idioms are used in the right place, they open the doors of effective communication and increase your descriptive power. In this way, you will be better understood. The meaning of the expression have time on one's hands is also remarkable in this respect.

Meaning of "have time on one's hands"


The idiom "have time on one's hands" is used to indicate that one has a lot of free time, typically due to being unemployed or having nothing to do. It is also used to describe someone who has a lot of free time and is therefore able to entertain themselves or their friends.


This idiom originated from the 16th century and has its roots in the ancient Greek notion of time. The Greek philosopher Aristotle said that time was a gift from the gods, and that “Time is the most precious of all goods”. So when someone was said to have time on their hands, it meant that they had a valuable and plentiful resource.


This idiom is most often used in a negative context, to convey feelings of boredom or lack of ambition. Someone might say, “I’m so bored, I have too much time on my hands” or “I feel like I’m just wasting my life away because I have too much time on my hands.” It can also be used with a more positive connotation; for example, “Now I have time on my hands, I can finally take up that new hobby”.

Example Sentences

  • John has been unemployed for a few months, and he's starting to feel like he has too much time on his hands.
  • Since the kids left home, I've had a lot of time on my hands and I've been trying to fill it with volunteer work.
  • With all this extra time on my hands, I can finally learn a new language.

The meanings of the words in the "have time on one's hands" idiom

The Global Spread of English Idioms

As English has become a global language, its idioms have spread far beyond the borders of the UK and USA. For instance, the idiom "beat around the bush" has equivalents in many other languages, such as "tourner autour du pot" in French and "dar vueltas al asunto" in Spanish. Meanwhile, other idioms have been adapted for local contexts, such as the Russian idiom "?? ???? ???????" (ne svoya rubashka), which translates to "not one's own shirt," meaning to be in an uncomfortable or unfamiliar situation.


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