• Before making a single edit, Tropedia EXPECTS our site policy and manual of style to be followed. Failure to do so may result in deletion of contributions and blocks of users who refuse to learn to do so. Our policies can be reviewed here.
  • All images MUST now have proper attribution, those who neglect to assign at least the "fair use" licensing to an image may have it deleted. All new pages should use the preloadable templates feature on the edit page to add the appropriate basic page markup. Pages that don't do this will be subject to deletion, with or without explanation.
  • All new trope pages will be made with the "Trope Workshop" found on the "Troper Tools" menu and worked on until they have at least three examples. The Trope workshop specific templates can then be removed and it will be regarded as a regular trope page after being moved to the Main namespace. THIS SHOULD BE WORKING NOW, REPORT ANY ISSUES TO Janna2000, SelfCloak or RRabbit42. DON'T MAKE PAGES MANUALLY UNLESS A TEMPLATE IS BROKEN, AND REPORT IT THAT IS THE CASE. PAGES WILL BE DELETED OTHERWISE IF THEY ARE MISSING BASIC MARKUP.


WikEd fancyquotes.pngQuotesBug-silk.pngHeadscratchersIcons-mini-icon extension.gifPlaying WithUseful NotesMagnifier.pngAnalysisPhoto link.pngImage LinksHaiku-wide-icon.pngHaikuLaconic

German Officer: You'll only see him one night. What's the point of that?

Anna Sörensen: It'll be much more than one night. Our minutes are longer than yours.

Time flows differently for people depending on their age, mood, and perspective. Never is this more pronounced than with vampires, robots, aliens and the like who are Immortality and have been around a long, long time. These beings tend to view years, decades, centuries and millennia like we view seconds. What's more, they will boast "argue" that they and/or their entire race "Do not conceive of time as humans do", and see no urgency to a situation; they'll compare humans to mayflies and liken our "frantic lives" to the desperate struggling of the doomed.

Often this is blatantly untrue, as they're either flighty ADHD elves/hedonists who can't see past the moment, or in the worst Hidden Elf Village tradition have underestimated the power of the fiend raising The Legions of Hell. The explanation is usually that their limitless lives have completely devalued time of all worth, so they'll spend their days in an opium haze.

If they truly do conceive of time differently, expect deep philosophical sentiments and quite a bit of sadness or detachment, and if not superior and condescending, they'll often marvel at how humans rush around and accomplish so much in their puny lifespans. Other times, beings who are literally outside of time will experience time non-linearly, seeing effect precede cause and move laterally to create parallel timelines.

Compare Year Inside, Hour Outside; see Merlin Sickness for another difference in the way time is experienced. For beings who experience/see their present, future and past all at once, see Non-Linear Character.

Examples of Time Dissonance include:


  • An episode of Mushishi features a Mushi that causes this - it syncs the host's perception of time with its own and, since it only lasts a day before it releases spores and dies, causes the host to effectively "grow old and die" every single day. It's curable, but a lot of people can't stand the dramatic shift in time dissonance and end up purposely infecting themselves again.
  • In Bleach, Mayuri forcibly does this to his Evil Counterpart (well, eviler counterpart) Szayelapporo.

Comic Books

  • Dr Manhattan of Watchmen experiences time in a non-linear sense. It can make it difficult to have a conversation with him as he either already knows what you're going to say or has not yet heard something you already told him. This gives him an extreme sense of fatalism.
  • Averted in The Sandman, as Dream is about to punish his captor's son: "Time moves no faster for us than it does for you." In other words, he felt every day of the seventy-five years he was imprisoned, which makes what he does to his victim a little more understandable.
  • Marvel's Quicksilver experiences this. As he tells Doc Samson, what kind of attitude do you think you'd cop if everyone else seemed like that one guy who's really slow in the supermarket checkout line?


  • Terry Pratchett likes this trope. In the Discworld, time is extremely relative. Sometimes a minute lasts forever, or weeks fly by. It's not a figure of speech. The History Monks make sure it all evens out in the end.
    • Death in Discworld: Humans have so little time. Why spend it in a field screaming? (He's trying golf.)
    • In Soul Music, he's shown to have a nonlinear memory, similar to Dr. Manhattan's.
    • Reaper Man has two scenes displaying this. In one, a group of mayflies grumble that you don't get the kind of sun they had in their day hour; now it's all red and near the horizon. Meanwhile, pine trees are having a similar conversation, but it takes seventeen years, and one is cut down. There's "a shocked pause for a couple of years" then one says "He just went! Just like that!"
      • A variation is that trolls believe that they perceive time backwards, reasoning that if you can see the past, it must be in front of you, whereas the future is invisible and therefore behind you. This is based on the similar perception of a Native American tribe, the Quechua.
    • In the Nomes Trilogy, the main characters have a lifespan roughly one-tenth that of a human, with a corresponding adjustment in their subjective rate of time perception. For example, they hear human voices as barely-comprehensible mooing.
  • In The Longest Journey, Venars perceive all of their life simultaneously. They are aware of everything that has happened to them and will happen to them, from their birth to their death, as if it happened now. Save for a period of time, soon to come, where their perception will be clouded and hidden, which upsets them quite a deal. (And given that they're never upset or surprised by anything ever usually, this means something.)
  • Subverted in Tales of MU by Dee who mentions that while they live longer five years is still five years to them.
    • Played straight for the slyphs, who perceive humans as moving at a snail's pace.
  • The Powers That Be and the Lone Power from the Young Wizards series exist mainly outside of time, inserting fragments of themselves into the time-stream in order to be able to have an effect on the things that exist inside of time. This allows for the Lone Power to be an active menace in one location while simultaneously being a Sealed Evil in a Can in a different location. It also means that the Lone Power is simultaneously "eternally rebelling, eternally being defeated, and eternally being redeemed." Which means that It can Heel Face Turn at the end of High Wizardry and the main characters will still have to fight It in later books.
  • The Tralfamadorians in Slaughterhouse-Five literally see time as a fourth dimension (the same way we humans see the three dimensions of space).
  • The Ents in The Lord of the Rings, if you don't piss them off.
    • This happens to the elves, too. It even bleeds over to the fellowship somehow in Lothlorien, so that they experience less time there then actually passes.
      • As Legolas puts it:

 "...change and growth is not in all things and places alike. For the Elves the world moves, and it moves both very swift and very slow. Swift, because they themselves change little, and all else fleets by: it is a grief to them. Slow, because they do not count the running years, not for themselves. The passing seasons are but ripples ever repeated in the long long stream. Yet beneath the Sun all things must wear to an end at last."

  • Parodied in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, where what sends Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged off the deep end is the prospect of infinite, mind-crushingly boring, slow-moving Sunday afternoons.
  • Inversion: In Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep, Sufficiently Advanced Aliens ("Powers") view time quite differently from normal species. That is, much, much faster. The galaxy is divided into inconceivably enormous "zones of thought" which change both the intelligence of living creatures and the laws of physics which set the boundaries for artificial technology. The core of the Milky Way is buried inside The Unthinking Depths (where a human being becomes almost nonsentient), ancient humanity's home of Earth is implied to lie within The Slow Zone (where, among other things, superluminality is impossible), and the "place to be" is The Beyond (which allows FTL technology and other wondrous things). Where things get really strange though, is The Transcend, which the outermost reaches of the galaxy dip into. Merely doing a tiny bit of scientific research while venturing over there allows you to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence almost at once, but the Powers thus created gain the ability to think and create at an enormous speed, causing civilizations to rise and seemingly vanish from contact there in decades or years, and so The Trancend is an extremely tumultuous place (which is made somewhat more intimidating yet for prospective explorers by the abandoned remnants of certain vanished Powers and the apathetic attitude of existing Powers.)
    • The oldest known Power, referred to by all as Old One, is eleven years old.
  • Inversion: in Watership Down when the hero Hazel dies at the age of ten, he is so old that his deeds have already passed into the realm of half-remembered myth for the other rabbits, who cannot count beyond four.
    • For that matter, it seems like the rabbits' creation myth is set relatively recently (El-ahrairah myths mention farms, guns, even motor vehicles), yet spoken of as being in the deep past.
      • Possibly because myths, especially in the oral tradition, are modified and enriched each time they're told, so rabbits must have included human technology in their stories as it spread. Also notice that cars, farms etc. have been around for several rabbit lifetimes.
  • The Witches of His Dark Materials live for many centuries, and so do not fret themselves over the same things as humans, for they "know every opportunity will arise again." Loving human men is a delightful and painful experience, for witches feel deeply, and while the passion of their human lovers is delightful, the deaths of their lovers and sons break their hearts over the centuries, until their death goddess is viewed as a kind friend.
  • Played with somewhat in The Belgariad. Despite being immortal and having lived for seven and three thousand years respectively, Belgarath and Polgara don't really throw their age around, aside from dropping periods like "a few centuries ago" the way most might say "last week." That's usually enough to weird out others.

 Sadi: "It chills my blood, the casual way you people shrug off eons."

  • Robert Heinlein's Lazarus Long character and the rest of the long-lived Howard Families notice that they have had to reorganize how they remember events in their lives to adapt to their extremely long lifespans. Lazarus at one point considers going to see a musician that he really enjoyed, but then remembers that he could have died centuries before.
  • In Maxine McArthur's Time Future duology, the Invidi perceive time very differently, being possessed of extremely long (exactly how long is unknown) lifespans, and are able to look far ahead into the future or way back into the past, and can visualize "paths of influence", which converge at "nodes", and a bunch of other stuff that doesn't make a great deal of sense to non-Invidi. It goes both ways, as they do not understand our view of time, to the point where one of them gets hopelessly confused by the word "soon." The explanation he requires to understand the term is: "A period extending from this moment to and including an unspecified one along our entropic line that corresponds to approximately fifty-five planetary rotations."
  • Dean Koontz has used this trope a couple of times.
    • In Whispers, the main character is 35, and at one point muses that it seems like it's only been one year since he was 25 when in fact 10 years had actually passed since then.
    • Shortly after The Reveal of the Ancient Enemy in Phantoms, the Ancient Enemy, who has been alive for several billion years states that humans are like mayflies to him and that their lifespans seem incredibly brief to him.
  • Very much the case for God in the The Bible. Psalm 90:4 mentions 'For a thousand years are in your eyes but as yesterday when it is past, And as a watch during the night.'. Its mentioned again at 2nd Peter 3:8. Very likely there's a similar situation with angels.
    • Presumably, having created the timeline along with everything else, the Christian God would be able to perceive any and all points on it in a way that linear-time-thinkers like ourselves can't comprehend.
    • Jesus also confused some Pharisees with his own perception of time:

 Jesus: Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.

Pharisees: You are not yet fifty years old, and you have seen Abraham?!

Jesus: I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I am!

  • Shows up in the Dresden Files - the older (and hence more experienced and magically powerful) wizards were all born a few centuries ago, and haven't adapted to rapidly changing technology. This is not a good thing.
  • In Larry Niven's Draco Tavern Series the different rates of different types of chemistry results in vastly different metabolisms and perceptions of time. Helium 3 lifeforms have such a slow chemistry that electronic communication is the only way to talk to them, and even a simple conversation takes decades. Their movement is just as slow. Meanwhile, lifeforms that evolved ON stars are on the other end of the scale, living less than a year, and regard carbon based humans as equally slow. For non-chemistry forms of the trope, in the story Limits aliens advanced enough to have immortality discuss whether or not to give the secret to humans, one side arguing that our brief lives have resulted in humans advancing much faster than other longer lived lifeforms, and more importantly discovering things they have not.

Live Action TV

  • There is a Sufficiently Advanced Alien in Animorphs that can move in the fourth dimension. Someone in story compared him to a statue and everyone else to a painting.
  • Doctor Who: The Doctor has thirteen lives, each of indeterminate length. Not to mention his gallivanting about and around all of time and space somewhat leisurely.
    • Also his ship, the TARDIS, who perceives time all at once. When she was placed in a human body she had some trouble communicating at first, due to Time Travel Tense Trouble, and made reference to things that hadn't happened yet.
    • Captain Jack Harkness, who, being immortal, has come to view time and relationships much differently.
    • The Eternals, like the Q of Star Trek, live outside of time.

  Eternal: You are a Time Lord. A lord of time. Can there be lords in such a limited domain?

  • The Prophets in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, who do not conceive of linear time at all. They needed Sisko to teach them about linear time.
  • In The Outer Limits episode "Vanishing Act", the aliens abducting Jon Cryer's character transport him another decade into Earth's future every time they return him, because as it turns out, they have no concept of time. Once the concept is explained to them, it's no problem for them to return him to the right time.
  • In Dune, the Bene Gesserit have their Simulflow technique where they voluntarily alter their perception of time to their desires. Then there is the nearly immortal God Emperor Leto II. He comments how his once a decade procession was just yesterday, or how he'll think a thought for an entire day because what is time to him.
  • Nicely Averted by Death in Supernatural. When he finally shows up, he savors his Chicago pizza, despite the fact that he's (possibly) older than God.
  • Played for laughs in a Soap story arc in which Burt is abducted by aliens and meets a fellow captive: Saul (the Biblical King). When Burt says that he was told by the aliens that they wouldn't hold him for long, Saul (played by Jack Guilford) sets him straight:

  Saul: Listen, these people, they have no concept of time. They'll say to you "wait a moment," and three, four hundred years go by, VOOM!

  • This causes some of the friction between the Tok'ra, Tau'ri, and Jaffa in Stargate SG-1. Humans and the rebel Jaffa want to take down the Goa'uld as soon as possible and are constantly taking action while the Tok'ra are content to slowly infiltrate the Goa'uld ranks and are in no rush to bring their downfall.

 Malek: And I need not remind you that the rebel Jaffa and the Tau'ri are equally indebted to us."

Teal'c: How so?

Malek: We have been fighting the Goa'uld for a millennia.

Jack: Yeah...just when should we expect some progress on that?



  • There's a song by a group called Jim's Big Ego that is set to the point of view of super fast superhero The Flash(Barry Allen if you were wondering) in which he laments the fact that because he's so fast, his sense of time is ruined because he can do so much more than anyone else in the same amount of time.

Tabletop Games

  • A Dungeons and Dragons guide to vampires has mentioned them being perfectly willing to wait for enemies they can't defeat to die of old age.
  • Vampire: The Requiem vampires are similar. The oldest vampires still think of the French and American Revolutions as recent history and a few are starting to admit that the USA may have some potential as a country. They can also spend extended periods of time in torpor (a sort of hibernation) if they need to lay low for a while. An unfortunate side-effect is that torpor scrambles their memories, so when they wake up they may not even remember why they did it in the first place.

Video Games

  • The plot twist of Starflight is that the fuel you hunt the galaxy for is actually the Ancients race that everyone talks about. Their view of time is so much slower that we see them as rocks, but they are sentient beings. The reason stars are flaring up is being done by the race in self defense.
  • As part of a Mind Screwdriver to tie the plot of Ever 17 together a certain character induces a Batman Gambit against himself because he only views time linearly when he has entered our dimension instead of existing in time. When he leaves, he apparently exists in a state like Dr. Manhattan above in that his mental state exists outside normal time, meaning he can trick his 'past' self but retain memories of what he's tricking himself with. Or something. ...Well, it works out in the end.
  • The asari of Mass Effect seem to view time like this, with their thousand year lifespans. An asari bartender in the second game complains this is part of the reason humanity has superseded the asari as the most powerful (non-Eldritch Abomination) force in the galaxy; the asari spend their first hundred or so years stripping or running with mercenaries, while humans don't waste time carving out their part of the galaxy.


  • Coyote from Gunnerkrigg Court "forgot how short a time humans have in the world". He demonstrates this by pondering why the medium he's speaking to looks younger than he remembers her, mistaking twelve-year-old Antimony for her dead mother (who was twenty-something when Coyote last met her.)
  • Vaarsuvius of The Order of the Stick at one point attributes his/her Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness to "my elven insensitivity to the flow of time."
  • In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob, Voluptua's people, the alien Nemesites, all speak of centuries as casually as humans talk about decades.
  • Eight Bit Theater:

 Sarda the (nigh-omnipotent) Sage: Your linear concept of time bores me.

  • An Xkcd strip features a "Time Vulture" following someone. Time Vulures can slow down their internal clocks so that time speeds past them; then they follow someone until they die and then eat them. When the character protests that he's not about to die, his friend tells him that, form the vulture's point of view, everyone says that just before they do.
  • Two Kinds: Keidrans only live 20 years so a couple years is a very long time by their standards.
  • The fae of Drowtales are type II immortals and thus very old fae have trouble remembering exactly how long ago things happened and even how old they are, and as a result most drow don't keep track of their exact age and instead refer to themselves by generation, or how far removed they are from the Dark Elves who first fled to the Underworld.

Western Animation

  • The Transformers, who are basically immortal unless someone destroys them (and even then they can usually come back), have this as well. Millions of years pass as decades for them.
    • Case in point. At the beginning of Transformers Animated, the heroes are asleep for 50 years. They treat it as a couple hours unconscious, and treat it as no big deal.
  • The characters of Re Boot, who live inside a computer, experience time much more slowly than humans. They frequently talk about "nanos" meaning nanoseconds, like the equivalent of seconds.
    • Which leads to a bit of Fridge Logic when season 3 comes around and they point out that game time is accelerated (they age faster in games). And games are a direct interface with The User...So is The User (comparatively) really really slow? Or really really fast?
  • Ben 10 Alien Force: Paradox, who is a Captain Ersatz of Doctor Who.

 Paradox: At first I went mad, of course. But after a few millennia, I got bored with that, too, and went sane. Very sane.


 "What is time to an immortal?"

  • The Drinky Crow Show: In one episode, Uncle Gabby meets another monkey who happens to look alot like him. Upon becoming a god, he takes Gabby into a separate universe called Dirt Girlatonia, filled with clones of the Captain's Daughter doing Girls Gone Wild acts. He and Uncle Gabby watch this spectacle for 50 billion years (which is shown by a black cuecard saying just that), with them still watching and staying the same as if only seconds gone by after the cuecard was shown. He ends up coming back to his own dimension and complains to Crow how he had to had to stay for 50 billion years, which crow interrupted by stating he was only gone for 5 seconds, but Gabby justifies it by saying that the monkey god took him out of the space time continuum. Coupled with his current age, this means Gabby is now more than 50 billion years old, which would make him 36.25 billion years older than the universe.
  • Clockwork of Danny Phantom does not view time in the linear way most beings do.

 Clockwork: See, for me, time moves backwards and forwards and... oh, why am I bothering? You're 14.

  • A short stop motion film called "Das Rad" involved two perspective of time between two sentient piles of rocks named Hew and Kew, and the humans who progress from cavemen to building a future metropolis which rot and fade away at the end of the film. Being rocks, Hew and Kew act and talk so slowly that centuries pass during their conversations and the humans who pass by (which are barely visible to the rocks due to the time dissonance) see them as ordinary piles of unmoving rocks. At one point, Kew picks up a broken wooden wheel discarded next to him by a human pulling a rickshaw passing by and inspects it in curiosity before it rots and biodegrades into nothingness.

Real Life

  • Einstein's theory of relativity, in a nutshell, states that time flows faster or slower depending on relative motion and gravity. The details are complicated, but in principle it is possible to exploit this. Orbit the right kind of object in the right way and when a 100 trillion years have passed, as the rest of the universe measures time, you will be just 10 days older.
    • Of course, as experience is ultimately measured through the pulsing of your neurons, those 100 trillion years will feel like 10 days to you.
  • Truth in Television, to a point. Studies have shown that, in general, younger people experience time slightly slower than older people (because their minds work slightly quicker). Also, other animals experience time at different rates to humans, for example, fruit flies experience time as moving much more slowly.
    • To put that in perspective: A fruit fly watching your average animated cartoon (approx. 12 frames per second) will see it as a slow moving slide-show whereas we see it as a full blown action sequence. Suffice to say, it will lose interest very quickly.
    • Contributing to that is the theory that our feeling of subjective time corresponds directly to the amount of information we consciously take in, this makes it appear as if the day passes more quickly.
    • That accounts for the changing rate at which we experience time passing, moment by moment, but the way it feels in the memory also changes. As one ages, the less impact a day, month, year, etc., has on one's existence. A year for a 5 year old is incredibly long because they see a year being about 20% of their lives, an incredibly significant period of time for anyone. But for a 50 year old, a year is just about 2% of their lives and as such doesn't hold as much significance to them.
      • Along these lines of thought, one relentlessly depressing study calculated that by age 20, most humans will, in terms of subjective experience, have passed halfway through life. Even if you live until 80. Happy birthday now!