I cannot trace the origin of the phrase "in the blink of an eye," neither the earliest printed record of the expression.

Surprisingly, even the Google Ngram Viewer returns a "NO" result. How come?

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    Here's the NGram chart for 'blink of an eye'. Mar 7, 2021 at 8:08
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    As @HotLicks said, it returns a "NO" result because your input was more than five words. Try "the blink of an eye". The earliest instance you'll be able to see is 1714.
    – Justin
    Mar 7, 2021 at 13:04
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    @Justin - did you find a 1714 usage? Can you please provide the specific link because I can’t find earlier usage instances of 1874.
    – user 66974
    Mar 7, 2021 at 13:07
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    @user66974 - That being said, I'm not sure if there is a 1714 usage... Ngram might be showing the words "blink" and "eye" as two separate instances... However, the origin of the idiom stems from "in the twinkling of an eye" as you've mentioned below. The word "blink" itself originated in 1578.. but I'm not sure if "in the blink of an eye" was put into use until after the 1800s.
    – Justin
    Mar 7, 2021 at 13:35
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    @Justin , I only find 1874.
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 7, 2021 at 13:48

1 Answer 1


In the blink of an eye is a later version of the much older similar expression “In the twinkling of an eye”, which, as the Phrase Finder notes:

It is recorded by Robert Manning of Brunne, in Handlyng synne, 1303: "Yn twynkelyng of an ye"

It is also used in the Bible, 1 Corinthians 15:52 (King James Version): In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

It was later used by Shakespeare in The Merchant Of Venice, 1596: "I'll take my leave of the Jew in the twink of an eye”

As you can see from Google Books “In the blink of an eye” emerged in the second half of the 19th c. and, apparently, is now the more commonly used.

An early usage example is from Chambers's Edinburgh journal of Popular Literature conducted by W. Chambers, 1874:

She 's that quick, she was gone like the blink of an eye ; and, besides, Jenny, she is not one to be easily hindered when she 's set upon a thing.

And from A Cook Book, 1876:

Ho ! all ye poor sinners , in search of good dinners , You'll surely be winners , if our plan you will try ; Only just take a look in this wise little book , And ' twill teach you to cook in the blink of an eye.

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    About the Bible verse I found this: 'This is translated from the Greek phrase en rhipē opthalmou, which most literally means "flicking the eye" and was the ancient reference to "the blink of an eye'. Interesting that most modern versions have kept twinkling rather than blink, despite the rather different connotations of 'a twinkle in the eye'. Mar 7, 2021 at 15:31

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