Is there a way to say the phrase "Buy time", as in to buy oneself time?

Example sentence: "He bought himself some time" or "He bought himself time"

  • This expression means "to do something in order to gain more time"?
    – user11898
    Commented Jul 18, 2023 at 0:39

1 Answer 1


The phrase "tempus redimitis" appears in Daniel 2:8 of the Vulgate.

Respondit rex, et ait: Certe novi quod tempus redimitis, scientes quod recesserit a me sermo.

Nebuchadnezzar responded, and said: I know with certainty that you are trying to buy time, since you know that the thing is gone from me. (Nebuchadnezzar claims to have forgotten the dream.)

In chapter 2 of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar has a troubling dream, and he summons his servants to interpret the dream for him. He asks his servants to tell him both the dream and its interpretation. His servants are unable to divine what dream he had, and ask him twice to reveal the dream to them. But Nebuchadnezzar refuses to share the details of the dream, claiming to have forgotten it.

Then Daniel learns about the situation, from Antioch, the general of Nebuchadnezzar's army. And the dream is revealed to Daniel in a vision that he receives in the night. God reveals to Daniel that Nebuchadnezzar dreamt of a statue, made of gold, silver, brass, iron, and clay. God explains that after many generations, Babylon will be absorbed by a larger kingdom.

Daniel appears before Nebuchadnezzar and tells Nebuchadnezzar the dream that he had. Then Daniel interprets the dream for Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar is exceedingly grateful. Nebuchadnezzar lavishes Daniel with gifts, and makes Daniel the governor of all of Babylon.

This context helps us understand the verse of Daniel 2:8. The servants, who are standing before Nebuchadnezzar, are trying to buy time, because they do not know what dream Nebuchadnezzar had, and because they are trying to think about how to respond. So they ask him again and again to share with them the details of the dream, in an effort to buy time.

In order to translate the expression "buy time" into Latin, I think we can use the phrase tempus redimere or tempus emere. The verb emere means "to buy", and the verb redimere (formed from red- + emere) means "to buy back" or "redeem".

The phrase tempus redimere is attested in Daniel 2:8 of the Latin Bible.

There is also the phrase Tempori parce, which is a Latin proverb. (Source: https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Latin_proverbs) The phrase Tempori parce means "Save time".

The verb "parcere" is a third conjugation verb that often takes the dative. The noun "tempus" is a third declension noun that means "time". Tempori is the dative singular of tempus.

So to translate the expression "buy (or gain) time" into Latin, we can use the phrases tempus redimere and tempus emere. To translate the idea of "saving time", we can use the phrase tempori parcere, where the word tempori is in the dative. Both of these phrases are attested — one in the Latin Bible and the other in a list of proverbs (as well as a textbook called A grammar of the Latin language).

Here are some examples:

  1. Emisne tempus? Are you buying time?
  2. Novit quod tempus redimunt. He knew that they were buying time.
  3. Aliquod tempus emit. He bought some time.
  4. Tempori parcere velim. I would like to save time.

These are a few ways of expressing the idea of buying time, or saving time, in Latin. We can use the noun tempus in combination with the verb emere, redimere, or parcere.

  • 4
    Note that the Vulgate expression is a literal translation from Aramaic, not idiomatic Latin. (It is obviously also the origin of the English idiom.)
    – Cairnarvon
    Commented Jul 18, 2023 at 8:55
  • 1
    @Cairnarvon: Does this invalidate ktm's answer?
    – tony
    Commented Jul 18, 2023 at 9:25
  • 1
    @tony Depends on the context; at my university you'd lose points on an exam over this if you were a philology major, but maybe not if you were a theology major—it's definitely not Classical Latin, but it would obviously be understood by Neo-Latinists. It's just something to be aware of.
    – Cairnarvon
    Commented Jul 18, 2023 at 9:33
  • 2
    @Cairnarvon, FWIW, I consulted S. Castellio idiomatic-Ciceronian translation it reads: Tum Rex: Enimvero intellego ego vos inde occasionem aucupari, quod mihi rem videtis excidisse ; quite frankly, it seems to be missing something. especially when tempusque aucupentur is attested to mean seize your chance/time.
    – d_e
    Commented Jul 18, 2023 at 11:04

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