Is there a term that describes "when happy time feels shorter, when sad time feels longer"?

I can only think of "time perception" for the time part but nothing for the feelings part.

2 Answers 2


I don't think English has a word for this. I think you have to pick either the slow case or the fast case and show the contrast with one's internal perception. What I usually see is

Each minute felt like an hour.


The immigration official looked at my passport. Ten seconds went by, or maybe an hour, I don't know.

That last one is my best recollection of a great episode of "From Our Own Correspondent."

For the opposite, in addition to the phrase in the other answer, you can also say

Time flew by. Or The time flew by. Or The party felt like it was over in an instant.

This phrase, plus the context, are often enough to convey the feeling.

  • I wonder if there is a word for this in another language or field of knowledge.
    – Gula Kapas
    Commented Dec 6, 2016 at 9:17

There is the idiom time flies when you're having fun which means that time seems to pass quickly when one is doing something enjoyable. It also implies that time seems to pass more slowly when one is not enjoying onself.

There does not seem to be an idiom or proverb in English which expresses the opposite idea but people will often say that "time drags" or that a tedious task "seems to go on for ever".

"Time flies" is often used ironically as well. A member of a group of people forced to wait interminably in an unstimulating environment might well say something like "Doesn't time fly when you're having fun?"

In his novel Catch-22 Joseph Heller has one character, Dunbar, who loved spending time on the shooting range, not because he enjoyed shooting but, on the contrary, because he hated it. Because he hated it time passed more slowly so, Dunbar said, he lived longer. Catch-22 being set on a US airfield in Italy during WWII living longer was important.

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