the time by which something must be finished or submitted; the latest time for finishing something: a five o'clock deadline.
a line or limit that must not be passed.
(formerly) a boundary around a military prison beyond which a prisoner could not venture without risk of being shot by the guards.

Origin of deadline

First recorded in 1855–60; dead + line1
Related formspost·dead·line, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for deadline

limit, period, bound, cutoff

Examples from the Web for deadline

Contemporary Examples of deadline

Historical Examples of deadline

  • It seemed as if we had shipped all the human dregs of the San Francisco deadline.

    The Trail of '98

    Robert W. Service

  • Just like you always were—plus fifteen seconds on the deadline.

    Spacehounds of IPC

    Edward Elmer Smith

  • Their deadline for establishing residence was up that night.

    Land of the Burnt Thigh

    Edith Eudora Kohl

  • He had been given a deadline by the mayor and the citizen's group.

    Sodom and Gomorrah, Texas

    Raphael Aloysius Lafferty

  • H will never again fall in for roll call on this side of the deadline.

    Drum Taps in Dixie

    Delavan S. Miller

British Dictionary definitions for deadline



a time limit for any activity
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for deadline

"time limit," 1920, American English newspaper jargon, from dead (adj.) + line (n.). Perhaps influenced by earlier use (1864) to mean the "do-not-cross" line in Civil War prisons, which figured in the Wirz trial.

And he, the said Wirz, still wickedly pursuing his evil purpose, did establish and cause to be designated within the prison enclosure containing said prisoners a "dead line," being a line around the inner face of the stockade or wall enclosing said prison and about twenty feet distant from and within said stockade; and so established said dead line, which was in many places an imaginary line, in many other places marked by insecure and shifting strips of [boards nailed] upon the tops of small and insecure stakes or posts, he, the said Wirz, instructed the prison guard stationed around the top of said stockade to fire upon and kill any of the prisoners aforesaid who might touch, fall upon, pass over or under [or] across the said "dead line" .... ["Trial of Henry Wirz," Report of the Secretary of War, Oct. 31, 1865]
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper