There's a German expression, "einen Tick besser", which means "just a little bit better".

Does that same expression exist in English? I just wrote this comment on a Stack Overflow question:

I like his solution a tick better since it avoids any nesting.

Is that proper English or does it sound weird?

  • 2
    Yes. But it would be more idiomatic to use a tad better; a tick is also a small arachnid. Commented Feb 28, 2014 at 14:05
  • Or a "smidge," or if you're in a group of engineers and physicists, " $\epsilon$ better" . ($\epsilon$ being the standard symbol in calculus for quantity being sent to zero in the limit). I would also suspect that some English-speaking software folk would react to "tick" as a single clock cycle. Commented Feb 28, 2014 at 14:24
  • @CarlWitthoft ...followed by the shortest math joke: let epsilon < 0.
    – Max
    Commented Feb 28, 2014 at 15:13
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    @Max: As is so often the case with "weird, low-currency" expressions, this usage seems to be primarily a product of American sports commentators. Elliot's tad is much more common in the wider world, but it's quite informal (and to my mind, still smacks of "jargon", since it's relatively recently been revived by journalists, rather than having been in constant use for decades/centuries). If you want something less obviously "slangy", touch has a long, proud, and continuous history for such contexts. Commented Feb 28, 2014 at 16:45
  • 1
    In the US we would more often use a bit better.
    – Oldcat
    Commented Feb 28, 2014 at 17:36

1 Answer 1


Yes, a tick (Chiefly British Informal: a moment or instant.) would be understood. In the US, though, it would be thought of as odd, not because we never hear it (even those who did not would likely associate it with the time it took for a clock to tick off a second), but more likely because we have such a problem with tick-borne diseases. (Also, in my experience, Americans have an inflated fear of ticks. Just saying the word makes them shudder.)

A titch is close, and understood.

  • 1
    I think it's misleading to mention the "chiefly British" moment or instant sense. I have never come across OP's a tick better. There are 40 hits in that Google Books link, and on a quick glance I can't see any with the relevant sense that are obviously British. But I can see at least a dozen that are unquestionably American (including no less than six specifically in the context of baseball). It sounds very "odd" to my British ear. Commented Feb 28, 2014 at 16:37
  • 2
    Another usage is a notch better — like a tick mark, a notch indicating one increment better on the imaginary scale of goodness between the present value and the best. Being "measurable," perhaps it is even better than something merely a tad better or a smidge better, much like someone who couldn't give a flip about a problem cares even less than someone who couldn't give two flips about it.
    – choster
    Commented Feb 28, 2014 at 22:09

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