At the eleventh hour

Some time ago I read in English “The Woman in White” by Wilkie Collins and really liked the story and its characters. I met there – for the first time – an English phrase “at the eleventh hour” and understood from the context that it meant “at the last moment”. I looked at my dictionary and browsed the Internet and found the following explanation:

The eleventh hour is the last possible moment at which something can be done, or which problems or solutions might arise. The phrase, “at the eleventh” hour became popular in the 19th century, but was in use much earlier. It alludes specifically to the book of Matthew in the New Testament (20:2-16). This account in Matthew is a parable regarding workers who arrive at the eleventh hour of the workday and are still paid a full day’s wage. Biblical scholars have suggested that the parable can mean that even people who come to Christianity late in life, at the eleventh hour, will still earn the full benefits of the joys of eternal life.

Do you use this phrase?

In the Czech language we simply say “at the last moment” or more idiomatically “at five minutes to twelve”. The idiomatic expression is used only when something was achieved at the last moment. E.g. “The operation was performed at 5 minutes to twelve. Otherwise he would have died.” or “She came to the station at 5 minutes to twelve. She didn’t miss the train.” Well, I haven’t found any explanation for the time…

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Our cat found a new place for having a rest…


The following signboard reads “Antiques”…


And sometimes you go through a city, glance up and see something like this…


Enchanting, isn’t it?



  1. The 11th hour is a dated expression. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone use it outside of an old book or film. Good for you for tracking down the meeting, though. I struggle reading in my second language, French, and certainly couldn’t blog in it.

    I love your spring images. I want to lie in the sun like the cat but it’s raining here.

    1. Sarah, thank you for your comment and for your praise. I have already found out that it is better to read contemporary literature if I want to keep in touch with “real” English. Still, one language is used a little bit differently in different countries and you really need to live in the particular area to know the local variety well…

  2. Roy

    I think it depends on your educational standard Petra as to whether you use that phrase or many other similar ones. “At the last moment”, is as good as any and we use that as well. There are some strange ones, “In the nick of time”, “Just in time”, football commentators and the like use “At the death”. ?? (Very odd)

  3. I didn’t know the background for the phrase, but I have read the book by Wilkie Collins.

    The phrase we use in Norwegian is much like yours, and it is certainly appropriate for a photographer looking for subjects that may soon not be there.

  4. Many thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. You have a very lovely blog – I would love to step into that antique shop! Your photographs are great – really clear! I would actually use the phrase “at the 11th hour” but I do tend to use a lot of flowery phrases – you’ve got me wondering why I do this now! My favourite at the moment – with teenagers in the house is telling them that they are on a “sticky wicket”!!!

    1. Diane, thank you, your comment and your praise pleased me so much. In my opinion, it is great when a language has more ways for expressing one and the same matter and you can choose the way that is most suitable for both you and the moment. I’d say that the language is not just a tool for communicating the necessary, it’s also a tool for expressing oneself properly.

    1. Keith, I wonder how many phrases there are that we use and yet don’t know the origin of them, they are just part of our everyday lives. Well, as long as others understand us, there is no need to dig into their history… As for the cat, he is so cute and friendly. He often lies under my car or by the house and now he found this new place where he can watch us when we are in the garden.

  5. I know the phrase ‘at the eleventh hour’ but would be more likely to say ‘in the nick of time’ which is even odder as Roy says:)
    I love the photo of your cat, he looks very comfortable and contented. It’s hard to believe that the last photo was taken in a city, it looks like somewhere in the heart of the country.

    1. Rowan, thanks for your view. You know, as soon as we feed our cat, he is a very contented creature! And you are right, the last photo seemingly doesn’t belong to a city but it is quite nice to find there something like this…

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