English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

He will be here in 90 minutes on the outside.

At the outside means "at the most". Is "on the outside" an equivalent expression?

share|improve this question
What's the context or source? – jwpat7 Jul 4 '12 at 19:46

The long-established expression is 'at the outside'. However, I think 'at' is falling out of favour these days, more's the pity.

Perhaps the quote in question came from a non-native speaker who is not clear on when to use 'at'. Other languages do not have a preposition that equates perfectly to 'at' so many non-native speakers have difficulty in using it well, or at all.

share|improve this answer

I have never come across such usage. On first look, the sentence seems to convey that "he will be on the outside of this place in 90 minutes".

share|improve this answer

The only idiomatic meaning of this phrase that I'm aware of is "no longer in prison". Could it mean this in your case? Or maybe the author intended to write "at the outside".

share|improve this answer
He could also be a social outcast... consider Oingo Boingo's song On the Outside. However, I too think the author meant "at the outside". – MT_Head Jul 4 '12 at 6:19

On the outside means away from or not belonging to a particular circle or institution:

when you're on the outside, then you have a much better view of what they're doing.

On the outside could also refer to the external appearance of someone or something.

Is he as honest as he appeared on the outside?

You could be on the outside of a prison's walls or a play ground. But I am not sure how that would fit in your example.

Def. Oxford Dictionary.

share|improve this answer

To give context, in the Battlestar Galactica series the president woman (with terminal cancer) repeatedly uses this idiom fitting the "at the most" meaning.

"I have (x time) on the outside", or "Doctors gave me (x time) on the outside".

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.