split second


a fraction of a second.
an infinitesimal amount of time; instant; twinkling.

Origin of split second

First recorded in 1880–85
Related formssplit-sec·ond, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for split second

Contemporary Examples of split second

Historical Examples of split second

  • There was a split-second when I thought it was the end of me.

    Wandl the Invader

    Raymond King Cummings

  • Subjectively, a split-second of time would have gone by in that period.

    World Beyond Pluto

    C. H. Thames

  • There was a split-second pause and then the great ship roared into life.

    Stand by for Mars!

    Carey Rockwell

  • "Reactant feeding at D-9 rate," said Barret after a split-second pause.

    Sabotage in Space

    Carey Rockwell

  • She had reached him just in time—a split-second later and his weight would have been too much for her puny strength.

    When the Sleepers Woke

    Arthur Leo Zagat

British Dictionary definitions for split second

split second


an extremely small period of time; instant

adjective split-second (prenominal)

made or arrived at in an infinitely short timea split-second decision
depending upon minute precisionsplit-second timing
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

Idioms and Phrases with split second

split second

An instant, a fraction of a second, as in Our best swimmer came in a split second before theirs. This expression alludes to a stop watch that has two second hands, one above the other, for timing more than one athlete or intervals of a race by a single athlete. Each hand can be stopped independently of the other, so a second can be “split” when one second hand stops a fraction of a second after the other. [c. 1880]

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.