Definition of tick-tock in English:


Line breaks: tick-tock
Pronunciation: /tɪkˈtɒk


  • 1The sound of a large clock ticking: we could hear every tick-tock of the clock
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    • She could hear the sounds of an empty, sleeping house; the tick-tock of the grandfather clock in the hallway, the dripping of a tap in the bathroom next to her, the low snuffling snores of her Dad next door.
    • The tick-tock of the clock was amplified and I glanced at it as a reflex.
    • It speaks of winter days sitting snug and cosy, the lamp lighting my page, toes gently toasting, and the quiet tick-tock of the clock.
  • 1.1US informal A piece of journalism that presents a chronological account of an event or series of events: an excellent tick-tock of the unfolding financial crisis [as modifier]: a tick-tock account of what went into the planning and execution of the raid
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    • A fine piece of reporting lays out in tick-tock form how the program allowed itself to be taken in by the sloppy frauds.
    • It serves no purpose to go back and do the tick-tock.
    • One of the regular features in the Wall Street Journal was the "tick-tock", an inside-the-boardroom reconstruction of a big deal.


[no object] Back to top  
  • Make a ticking sound: the clock on the wall was tick-tocking
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    • The metronome is a nice reference tool, but if you don't have one to practice with, think of the arm of a grandfather clock tick-tocking back and forth.
    • Not a sound was to be heard anywhere; the place had nearly reached the mystical non-existent state, supposing there was one, was it not for the clock which tirelessly tick-tocked its way through the smooth black silk of silence.
    • Mindful of the time, he watched the clock tick-tock its way towards 7:15.


mid 19th century: imitative; compare with tick1.

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