What does “behind the times” mean?

'Behind the times' is an idiomatic expression that refers to something or someone that is outdated or old-fashioned. Explore its origins, usage, modern context, and comparison with related idioms.

Understanding ‘Behind the Times’

‘Behind the times’ is an idiomatic expression that refers to something or someone that is outdated or old-fashioned.

It can be used to describe ideas, attitudes, or styles that are no longer relevant or current.

The expression is commonly used in everyday conversations and written communication.

Origins and Usage

The origin of the phrase is unclear, but it has been in use since the early 19th century.

It gained popularity in the 20th century and has become a common idiom in English.

The phrase can be used in a variety of contexts to describe anything that is outdated or behind the times.

Example sentences:

  • He still uses a flip phone; he’s really behind the times.
  • Her fashion sense is so outdated; she’s really behind the times.
  • The company’s marketing strategy is old-fashioned and behind the times.

Modern Context and Relevance

In today’s fast-paced world, being behind the times can be a disadvantage.

With rapid advancements in technology, fashion, and culture, it is important to keep up with the latest trends and ideas.

Being behind the times can make a person or a company appear out of touch or irrelevant.

Example sentences:

  • The company’s refusal to embrace social media has made them appear behind the times.
  • His insistence on using a fax machine instead of email shows that he’s behind the times.
  • The school’s outdated teaching methods are leaving students behind the times.

– Is “behind bars” a phrase similar in meaning to “behind the times”?

Yes, “behind bars” is a phrase similar in meaning to “behind the times”.

Both convey a sense of being restricted or out of touch.

However, “behind bars” specifically refers to being in prison or incarcerated, while “behind the times” generally means outdated or old-fashioned.

Comparison with Related Idioms

There are several idiomatic expressions that are similar to ‘behind the times.’ Some of these include ‘out of touch,’ ‘old hat,’ and ‘outdated.’ While these expressions convey a similar meaning, ‘behind the times’ specifically refers to something that was once popular or relevant but is now outdated.


  • Out of touch
  • Old-fashioned
  • Dated