circumstances of a certain period or era in time
For the London newspaper, see The Times.

The times are the circumstances of a certain period or era in time. An event that exemplifies a certain era is often called a sign of the times.


  • It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
    • Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, chapter 1, opening paragraph, p. 3 (1958). Originally published in 1859.
  • The times they are a-changin'
  • These times of ours are serious and full of calamity, but all times are essentially alike. As soon as there is life there is danger.
    • Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Public and Private Education," lecture before the Parker Fraternity, Boston, Massachusetts, November 27, 1864. Emerson, Uncollected Lectures, ed. Clarence Gohdes, p. 14 (1932).
  • This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.
    • Ralph Waldo Emerson, "The American Scholar," oration delivered before the Phi Beta Kappa Society, Cambridge, Massachusetts, August 31, 1837. Nature, Addresses and Lectures (vol. 3 of The Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson), p. 105 (1906).
  • Had those who drew and ratified the Due Process Clauses of the Fifth Amendment or the Fourteenth Amendment known the components of liberty in its manifold possibilities, they might have been more specific. They did not presume to have this insight. They knew times can blind us to certain truths and later generations can see that laws once thought necessary and proper in fact serve only to oppress. As the Constitution endures, persons in every generation can invoke its principles in their own search for greater freedom.
  • These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.
    • Thomas Paine, "The Crisis," no. 1, The Writings of Thomas Paine, ed. Moncure D. Conway, vol. 1, p. 170 (1894). Conway notes: "The first 'Crisis' is of especial historical interest. It was written during the retreat of Washington across the Delaware, and by order of the Commander was read to groups of his dispirited and suffering soldiers. Its opening sentence [above] was adopted as the watchword of the movement on Trenton, a few days after its publication, and is believed to have inspired much of the courage which won that victory, which, though not imposing in extent, was of great moral effect on Washington's little army" (p. 169).
  • The man and the hour have met.
    • William Yancey, introducing Jefferson Davis, president-elect of the Confederacy, in Montgomery, Alabama, February 16, 1861. Attributed to Yancey by the biographers of Davis, including Hudson Strode, Jefferson Davis, vol. 1, p. 407 (1955).

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