What is a word or expression to describe a feeling of anxiety about the passing of time?

I am not referring to boredom which refers to not having anything to do or being dissatisfied with what I'm doing and wanting to do something else.

I am referring to the feeling I get when I contemplate that time has passed by, or that time is passing by.

  • I have re-worded my question to be less confusing. I can see from the four answers I see so far that I failed to make myself clear. Sep 14, 2011 at 1:00
  • "This is the weird philosophy of life. Evenings feel like ages but the years are passing by so quickly" Is this what you are referring to? Sep 25, 2015 at 5:42

10 Answers 10


This sounds like an existential crisis, with particular reference to

a new-found grasp or appreciation of one's mortality;

However, you shouldn't really be able to experience something so traumatic on a daily basis, while still being able to function normally.

  • Perhaps existential crisis could be an acute form of the anxiety that I describe. Sep 6, 2011 at 16:33
  • 1
    I think existential crisis is really far too broad a term for the relatively specific feeling OP refers to, which isn't really even about "mortality" (1 of 5 examples in the Wikipedia page). It's to do with the panicky feeling that time is passing, rapidly & probably wastefully, and that OP is unable at that moment to either slow time down or know how to start using it wisely. Sep 6, 2011 at 19:43
  • The perception of time passing as a 'waste' questions the nature of existence, for if the person who feels this way believes their life has meaning then it is simple frustration, yet here this is not so. And what else is 'contemplation of the finitude of life' but appreciation of one's mortality? However, I understand the OP does not feel at a crisis point, so perhaps this could be better described as existential anxiety?
    – z7sg Ѫ
    Sep 6, 2011 at 23:33

Perhaps you are experiencing a mild form of chronophobia.

  • Although this isn't exactly the answer I'm looking for, it is closer than any of the other answers I see here so far. The word chronophobia denotes fear of time passing. I'm looking for a word that denotes anxiety about time passing. Sep 7, 2011 at 17:03
  • What is anxiety if it isn't a mild fear or concern?
    – ghoppe
    Sep 14, 2011 at 5:52
  • +1, will be dropping in chronophobics every chance I get, Chronophobes sounds good too!
    – jimjim
    Nov 19, 2011 at 0:04

I have been serching for this word also and the closest i have come to is in japanese ... 'Mono no aware' - A melancholic appreciation of the transciency of exsistence.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mono_no_aware http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tim-lomas/untranslatable-words-mono_b_9292490.html

  • The fact that this word exists in any language makes me happy. It's very beautiful.
    – as4s4hetic
    Aug 18, 2017 at 9:33
  • 1
    I seem to be in a constant state of mono no aware :D
    – JEMMA
    Aug 18, 2017 at 9:44

It sounds like this is a concept without a label. I'd like to nominate temporal angst. It sounds like the emotion you are experiencing is angst involving time.


Perhaps you are feeling restless, or contemplating your mortality?

  • Contemplating mortality would be an aspect of thinking about the passage of time, but I'm looking for a word or expression that describes anxiety about the passage of time per se. Sep 6, 2011 at 16:33

The most natural way to say this is probably to make a judgment about the unproductive use of time. You might say you regret squandering your time that day. Or, you might be unhappy you did nothing but waste time (or one of its synonyms like mess around).

  • No, this isn't it. Sep 6, 2011 at 21:21
  • It's not a feeling about how I used the time, but a feeling about the passing of time itself. Sep 14, 2011 at 0:56

I think this might describe what you are talking about. I started searching the internet for this because I think I feel it too. Many people talk about how they feel sad about that they haven't done (enough) with their time or whatever. But I don't feel quite that way because I'm not comparing myself to someone else. I feel that it is a intense sadness knowing that you had something that will never be able to come back and that even now in this moment time continues and will never stop so all the things you have, even in the "right now", you are losing minute by minute and will not get back and there's nothing you can do to stop it.

Even though it is not the topic of the song, I think of the line from the song "Hard times come again no more"...."Let us pause in life's pleasures..."

or when I hear the slow version of Auld Lang Syne (Dougie MacLean)


I think this word linked above, applied to something or someplace comes pretty close. Chronophobia seems kind of close too but still seems just a little too general.

  • Welcome to EL&U, Mike. We appreciate your input. :) Jan 7, 2014 at 7:36
  • 1
    Your answer contains a lot of extra information which is nice, but unlike a forum, the "StackExchange way of doing things" is to reduce the amount of discussion, and just focus on answers. I would recommend removing a bit of the chat, and instead putting focus on the words you recommended.
    – IQAndreas
    Jan 7, 2014 at 14:45
  • For instance, I would add the definitions of saudade and chronophobia to your answer instead of just linking to them.
    – IQAndreas
    Jan 7, 2014 at 14:46

It's not anxiety, and it hasn't got anything to do with mortality or existentialism. It's the feeling one gets when one becomes acutely aware that time is passing. An observant sadness yet simultaneous joy and nostalgia. I think it is one of those things we have no words for, like sitting on a grassy hill and suddenly becoming completely aware of gravity holding you onto the earth's surface, and imagining that if it were to stop suddenly one would simply float outwards from the surface of the earth into the vast nothingness of space.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that the passage of time has a certain weight and physical element that you can feel when you get this "anxiety". Like the Vonnegut's Transmalfadorians who saw humans in the dimension on time. Some sort of other world and reality. Have you read the poem "Esse" by Milosz, I think it will bring up some of what you are feeling.

  • This answer doesn't really answer the OP's question. As seen by the other answers, there are words to describe this experience.
    – Luke_0
    Nov 8, 2012 at 0:05

I believe that the word in nothing short of depression. I know that the medical system has many descriptions of that word, but if anxiety is a feeling of inability to control the future, depression is a feeling of a lost opportunity of controlling the past.

Understand time(reality) that has passed was created by you. If it was not desirable - you would be sad.

Start controlling your reality, which starts in your mind, and you will lose that feeling.

  • +1 for remembering Dear Old Uncle Kurt. A reading of Slaughterhouse Five would definitely give the answer even if it took a whole book of words to get there. Sep 25, 2015 at 5:31

You have the feeling that time is slipping away from you.

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