It’s Been a Minute: The Meaning and Origins Explained

"It's Been a Minute" is an idiomatic expression that signifies the passage of a significant amount of time. While it’s precise origins remain unclear, this colloquial phrase might find it’s roots in the term "hot minute," which was initially documented in the mid-1800s. "Hot minute" denotes an extended period, suggesting that time has elapsed since a particular event or interaction. Over time, the phrase evolved into it’s current form, encapsulating the notion of a substantial duration. This commonplace expression is used in various contexts to acknowledge the passing of time and often carries a sense of surprise or disbelief at how much time has actually transpired. It’s versatility and relatability have made "It's Been a Minute" a popular phrase in contemporary language, resonating with individuals who recognize the fluidity of time and it’s impact on our lives.

Why Do People Say It’s Been a Minute?

The phrase “It’s been a minute” is a colloquial expression that’s gained popularity in recent years. It’s often used in casual conversations or social media posts to convey a sense of time passing. Instead of stating the exact length of time, this expression adds a playful and exaggerated touch to the conversation.

While the exact origin of this phrase is uncertain, it’s believed to have emerged from African American Vernacular English (AAVE) and urban slang. AAVE is a dialect primarily spoken by African Americans in the United States, and it’s had a significant influence on American English and popular culture. The phrase “It’s been a minute” is an example of the linguistic creativity and wordplay characteristic of this dialect.

This expressions informal and playful nature resonates with a wide range of English speakers, making it a versatile and relatable way to discuss the passage of time. By using this phrase, individuals can capture the essence of a long-awaited reunion or delayed action in a succinct and humorous manner.

Now, let’s delve into the origins of the popular slang phrase “it’s been a minute.” This colloquial expression first emerged among Black Americans in the 1970s before gaining traction among college students and eventually permeating mainstream culture. With it’s meaning evolving into a way of saying “Let’s catch up,” the phrase has become a common part of everyday conversation.

When Did People Start Saying It’s Been a Minute?

The phrase “its been a minute” has become a popular slang expression in recent years, but it’s origins can be traced back to the 1970s, where it was first recorded among Black Americans. The phrase was initially used as a way of saying “Lets catch up,” indicating a desire to reconnect with someone after a long period of time without contact.

Over time, the phrase was picked up by college students and began to spread into mainstream culture. It’s usage grew as more and more people adopted it as a casual and colloquial way of acknowledging the passing of time since their last encounter with someone.

Sam Sanders, the host of National Public Radios “It’s Been a Minute,” has further popularized the phrase by using it as the title of his show. He’s described the phrase as a way to acknowledge that it’s been a while since he last connected with his audience, and that it’s time to catch up on the latest news and conversations.

While it’s specific origins among Black Americans in the 1970s may have been the starting point, it’s widespread adoption has transformed it into a phrase that transcends racial and cultural boundaries, becoming a part of everyday vernacular for many.

When it comes to slang, the meaning of “minute” goes far beyond it’s literal definition. In colloquial usage, “minute” refers to a significant period of time, often stretching beyond it’s temporal confines. Referred to as “an ill minute” or “a hot minute,” this slang term reflects the way in which time can appear to elongate in certain contexts.

What Does a Minute Mean in Slang?

In the realm of slang, the term “minute” takes on a whole new dimension of meaning. It goes beyond it’s literal definition of 60 seconds and becomes immersed in the fluidity of time. Such usage can also be found in phrases like “an ill minute” or “a hot minute.”. These expressions emphasize the exaggerated length of time, indicating that it’s been quite a while since a particular event or occurrence took place.

The origins of this slang usage can be traced back to African American Vernacular English (AAVE). Over time, this linguistic trope has made it’s way into popular culture and everyday conversation, finding it’s place in informal language.

By employing this colloquialism, individuals can express the magnitude of an events impact or the extent of their absence. It’s a way to convey that the duration has been momentous and transformative, capturing the essence of the phrase “time flies.”

Originating from AAVE, this expression conveys the passage of a significant amount of time, sometimes referred to as “an ill minute” or “a hot minute.”. It emphasizes the subjective nature of time while injecting vibrancy and exaggeration into conversations. From music lyrics to everyday colloquialism, this slang usage resonates with diverse cultural backgrounds, reminding us of the fluidity of time.

Source: Why do people say they haven’t done something for a …

Where Did the Phrase It’s Been a Hot Minute Come From?

The phrase “its been a hot minute” has become increasingly popular in recent years, particularly among younger generations. While the exact origins of this expression are somewhat unclear, it’s believed to have it’s roots in African American Vernacular English (AAVE) and has since spread widely across various communities and subcultures.

The phrases current usage often conveys a sense of exaggeration, emphasizing that a significant amount of time has passed since the last encounter or event. However, this meaning is quite different from it’s original intention. In it’s initial form, “hot minute” denoted a short period rather than a long one.

The term “red hot minute” may have been the precursor to the phrase “hot minute,” as it also denotes brevity.

The transformation of the phrases meaning can be attributed to languages inherently dynamic nature, which constantly evolves and adapts to it’s environment and speakers preferences. As such, where “its been a hot minute” once implied a short time, it now carries connotations of a lengthy interval.

The phrases rise in popularity can be attributed to it’s catchy nature and resonance with contemporary speech patterns. It’s versatility allows it to be used in a variety of situations, contributing to it’s widespread adoption across numerous social groups and platforms.

This phrases adoption into mainstream discourse demonstrates the fluidity and adaptability of language as it responds to the needs and desires of it’s speakers.

Alongside it’s commonly known meaning as a short period of time or specific moment, the word “minute” also serves as an adjective, denoting something incredibly small or insignificant.

What Are the 2 Meanings of Minute?

The word “minute” holds two distinct meanings that often lead to different interpretations. The first interpretation revolves around perceiving it as a short period of time or a specific, precise moment in time. In this context, when someone says they’ll be back in a “minute,” they usually indicate a brief duration, such as a few moments, rather than referencing an actual 60 seconds. This usage is commonly employed to express urgency or impatience, suggesting a need for immediate action or attention.

On the other hand, “minute” can also be employed as an adjective, indicated by the pronunciation “my NOOT.”. In this sense, it embodies the concept of extreme smallness, referring to something that’s minuscule, tiny, or even insignificant. When describing an object or scale, one might refer to it as being comprised of “minute” components, emphasizing their size relative to the whole or highlighting their subtle nature. This adjective is deployed to discuss matters of detail, precision, or proportion, often conveying the idea of something subtle or inconspicuous.

The diverse interpretations of this word enable speakers to convey their intended message with precision and creativity, allowing for a richness in communication that enriches our daily interactions.


It’s often used to express surprise or emphasis on the passage of time, indicating that a significant amount of time has elapsed since the last interaction or event.