“Around the clock” is a lovely visual idiom – you can even picture the hands of the clock spinning around the clock face as you say it!
The hands are spinning around and around, hour after hour – the actual time doesn’t matter because whatever’s happening will keep happening at any time of the day or night.
If something is happening around the clock, it doesn’t stop.
Meaning of Around the clock / Round the clock
Used as an adjective
Happening, lasting or continuing constantly for a significant period of time (at least a few days), or 24/7.
Used as an adverb (Figurative)
Working hard, often for very long hours
Around the Clock Usage
Around the clock is often used figuratively to describe someone working hard / doing something difficult – working around the clock to achieve something.
It’s often used for:
- Doctors/ nurses
- First responders
- Factory workers (at Christmas, for example)
- People giving aid during a disaster
- Anyone with a short deadline
- Doctors worked around the clock to resuscitate her.
- First responders have been working around the clock to help survivors of the disaster.
When used as an adjective, around-the-clock is used to describe someone’s circumstances, usually when they’re ill or pose a threat to other people:
- She needed round-the-clock care when she was in hospital.
- They had round-the-clock surveillance to make sure they didn’t escape.
To say facilities are open 24/7
- A new round the clock mental health unit
It can also be used for TV that’s on 24 hours a day
- Round-the-clock coverage of the storm
- A round-the-clock news network
Round the clock synonyms
- She worked relentlessly to make sure he was proved innocent.
Without giving up. Usually used when someone is doing something extremely difficult, and does not stop until the job is done.
- He drove endlessly down country lanes looking for her house.
Doing something for so long that it seems like it will never end. The word ‘endlessly’ focuses more on a feeling of never finishing, rather than a real amount of time something lasted for.
- She worked non-stop to get her essay finished on-time.
Implies hard work for long hours.
- He worked all week without stopping
Used literally when there are no emotions involved. Usually a period of time has to be established for how long the person didn’t stop.
- She ran continuously for 15km.
Without interruption, gaps or stopping.
Constantly / incessantly
- He was constantly looking at her across the room.
- She texted him incessantly for weeks.
Continuously over a period of time. Both of these words can be used for something that happens many times within a specific timeframe, or for something that doesn’t stop. If used to describe someone’s actions it has a negative connotation – they are often annoying or unpleasant actions.
- The café served burgers 24/7.
- The shop was open day-and-night.
At all times
- The guards were on duty at all times to make sure no one got in or out.
- The hospital offers an uninterrupted phone service for patients.
- The hospice gives its patients constant care and attention.
Other Idioms with CLOCK
Turn back the clock
To go back in time.
- If I could turn back the clock, I would never have spent that summer in Japan.
To arrive at work (usually used when the person has to stamp the time they arrived on a timecard)
- He clocked in at exactly 8:05. If he’d been one minute later he would have been in trouble.
The clock is ticking
Time is running out/ there is only a limited amount of time for someone to do something
- The clock was ticking for her to decide if she wanted the job or not.
Against the clock
To have a very limited amount of time to do something – usually used when it is almost impossible to get the task done in such a limited amount of time.
- He worked against the clock to get her proved innocent.
Around the clock or Around-the-clock? How to write it correctly?
Both are correct! However, whether you use hyphens or not depends on how you’re using the phrase.
If you’re using it as an adjective, you should use hyphens, for example:
“She needed round-the-clock care”
If you’re using it an an adverb, you shouldn’t use hyphens, for example:
Doctors worked around the clock
Thank you so much for clarifying!