Tempus fugit


A winged hourglass representing time flying, designed for gravestones and monuments

Tempus fugit is a Latin phrase, usually translated into English as "time flies". The expression comes from line 284 of book 3 of Virgil's Georgics,[1] where it appears as fugit inreparabile tempus: "it escapes, irretrievable time". The phrase is used in both its Latin and English forms as a proverb that "time's a-wasting".


An example of the phrase as a sundial motto in Redu, Belgium.

Tempus fugit is typically employed as an admonition against sloth and procrastination (cf. carpe diem) rather than a motto in favor of licentiousness (cf. "gather ye rosebuds while ye may"); the English form is often merely descriptive: "time flies like the wind", "time flies when you're having fun".

The phrase is a common motto, particularly on sundials and clocks. It also has been used on gravestones.

Some writers have attempted rebuttals: Time goes, you say? Ah, no! alas, time stays, we go. by H(enry) Austin Dobson 1840-1921. 'Hêd Amser! / Meddi Na! / Erys Amser / Dyn Â' on sundial at Univ of Bangor, North Wales. says the sundial was commissioned by Sir William Henry Preece, and offers an English equivalent: Time flies, thou sayest - Nay! Man flies; Time still doth stay. Another English version is: Time Flies, Say Not So: Time Remains,'Tis Man Must Go.

In the Georgics

The phrase's full appearance in Virgil's Georgics is:

Omne adeo genus in terris hominumque ferarumque Thus every Creature , and of every Kind ,
The secret Joys of sweet Coition find :
Not only Man's Imperial Race ; . . .
Nay, every race on earth of men, and beasts,
et genus aequoreum, pecudes pictaeque volucres,             . . . but they
That wing the liquid Air ; or swim the Sea ,
Or haunt the Desart , . . .
And ocean-folk, and flocks, and painted birds,
in furias ignemque ruunt: amor omnibus idem. ...             . . . rush into the flame :
For Love is Lord of all ; and is in all the same .
Rush to the raging fire: love sways them all.
Sed fugit interea, fugit inreparabile tempus, But time is lost , which never will renew , Fast flies meanwhile the irreparable hour,
singula dum capti circumvectamur amore. While we too far the pleasing Path pursue ;
Surveying Nature , with too nice a view .
As point to point our charmed round we trace.

See also


  1. ^ a b Vergilius Maro, Publius. Georgicon, III. c. 29 BC. Hosted at Wikisource. (in Latin)
  2. ^ Dryden, John (trans.). The Works of Virgil: Containing His Pastorals, Georgics, and Æneis, 3rd ed., Vol. I, pp. 163–166. Jacob Tonson (London), 1709. Hosted at Google Books. Accessed 30 May 2014.
  3. ^ Rhoades, James (trans.). Bucolics, Aeneid, and Georgics of Vergil. Ginn & Co. (Boston), 1900. Hosted at MIT. Accessed 30 May 2014.

External links

  • The dictionary definition of 'tempus fugit' at Wiktionary