In A Trice

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In A Trice : Phrases


In a single moment, with no delay.



Trice is no longer in general use, but might have worked out that it means 'a very short period of time' from the phrase 'in a trice'. That seems reasonable, as the phrase is the only place we are now likely ever to come across the word. That's not the original meaning of 'trice' though - it had a more specific meaning, which was 'at a single pull'. This derived from the name given in the 14th century to a nautical windlass or pulley (variously 'tryse', 'tryce', 'trise' or 'trice') - hence the 'single pull' meaning.

The phrase was first recorded, in the 15th century, in the form 'at a trice'. For example, in the verse The lyfe of Ipomydon, 1440:

The howndis... Pluckid downe dere all at a tryse. [The hounds... plucked down deer all at a trice]

The first recording of the 'in a trice' version of the phrase is in John Skelton's Poetical Works, 1508:

To tell you what conceyte I had than in a tryce, The matter were to nyse.

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