Is there a word for describing a period of time that feels much longer than it actually is?

To fill in the blanks below for example

Only few days have passed but it feels like months. How ___ .

The time we spent on the island has been ___ . It is as if we'd lived there for years.

Reading the source code is quite a ___ task.

  • Do you have a preferred register? That is, would a slang term work, or are you specifically looking for something more formal? Also, do you specifically want an adjective?
    – 1006a
    Feb 23, 2018 at 21:39
  • You could use slow motion in your context (although it doesn't exactly fit in your examples). Related excerpt from an article: "With lots of new stimuli our brains take longer to process the information so that the period of time feels longer. This would help to explain the “slow motion perception” often reported in the moments before an accident." - www.independent.co.uk
    – ermanen
    Feb 23, 2018 at 22:58
  • slow-going...
    – Drew
    Feb 23, 2018 at 23:07
  • A single adjective to fit all your examples is tedious.
    – JonLarby
    Feb 24, 2018 at 0:23
  • @ermanen that is a very interesting article. thanks! Feb 26, 2018 at 19:19

4 Answers 4


When time feels like it is passing slower than usual, we usually say that it is dragging:

2 (of time) pass slowly and tediously.

’the day dragged—eventually it was time for bed’

I don’t think it’s quite the single word you were looking for, but in conjunction with “time” it can fill the blank in all your examples.

It does have fairly negative connotations; we often used stretched in more positive situations. E.g.:

“The long summer days stretched out, so by the autumn it felt like we hadn’t been to school in years.”

  • 1
    This is perhaps as close as one can get. It addresses the subjective requirement. Feb 24, 2018 at 0:19
  • There is also the more casual term draggy, to fulfill the OP's request for an adjective, though I don't know if it perfectly fits all the example blanks.
    – 1006a
    Feb 26, 2018 at 21:14

The typical metaphor would be an eternity. The other way, possibly cliché, is [for] what seemed like an eternity.


Glacial is frequently used in just this way.

"suggestive of the very slow movement of glaciers ·progress on the bill has been glacial"(MW)

Interestingly, there is a concept in fictional narrative that may also be useful. If a long segment of the text is devoted to a short period of the story, it is called deceleration. So a decelerated event has a short duration in time but extends for an inordinate amount of text compared to the normal event time/text length for the narrative. Narrative Fiction, Shlomith Rimmon-Kenan, Routledge.

In more general use, "The event decelerated as the week progressed."

The time we spent on the island has decelerated. It is as if we'd lived there for years.

  • 1
    This actually is lengthy. Feb 23, 2018 at 20:43
  • @edwin Seems, feels, as if . . .
    – Zan700
    Feb 23, 2018 at 21:13
  • 'Glacial' used metaphorically means 'extremely slow / taking ages' not 'feeling much longer than it actually is'. Feb 23, 2018 at 21:19
  • The history professor's two-hour class passed glacially. The history professor's two-hour class seemed to pass glacially. The new glacier formed lickety-split, uncharacteristically non-glacially.
    – Zan700
    Feb 23, 2018 at 21:32
  • The 'seems' needs to be built into the word. Read the question again. 'Glacial' is wrong. Feb 23, 2018 at 21:45

Simple as it is, you could just use "slow" or any of its synonyms.
"How slow."
"has been slow"
"a slow task"

I'd argue that "time is slow" implies that the period of time seems longer than it actually is, since we're all aware that time isn't literally being slow (unless this is sci-fi, or something).

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

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