Why are deadlines called ‘DEAD’lines?

“The deadline for submission of this assignment is 12th January

“The deadline for sending in the abstract is 20th December”

“The deadline for registration is 25th October”


Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines. If a dictionary were to be made of the words most frequently used or heard by man in his lifetime, ‘deadlines’ would definitely be one of the first words to feature in it. But have you ever wondered why deadlines are called ‘DEAD’lines?

Linguistically, ‘dead’lines mean lines which are dead or lines which cannot move, a characteristic feature of all lines. Historically, the word deadline seems to have originated during the Civil War when it was meant to refer to prisons – indicating lines which prisoners could not cross. Gradually it entered the field of journalism, where due to the design of the early printing press a guideline had to be followed for how the text had to be printed. All the text within the line called a deadline would be printed while all the text outside the line would get omitted. Currently, ‘deadline’ means the latest date or time by which something should be completed.

In my opinion, due dates and target dates are called deadlines in order to reinforce their importance. At a time where there is huge competition in almost every sphere of life, sticking to deadlines or even submitting the required work before its deadline makes you stand a class apart. Following deadlines is a very good practice as it instils in us a sense of duty and responsibility. It is a very important criterion by which companies judge their employees. No matter how big a company may be, failure to submit even a small file can sometimes shake the firm to its core. Your future in an organization is really bleak and literally “dead” once your boss and colleagues get an impression that you are lackadaisical and will never submit documents and papers on time.

Shifting our focus from companies and firms to schools and colleges, the situation there is no different. A student will always try to get into the good books of teachers and professors by submitting his/her work on time. It is also proof of fact that you do your work on time and do not put it off for the next day. This is what will make you have an important say in school and college and on a large-scale in society.

According to me, however, deadlines are not limited to those determined by others for us. Ever since the day of birth, an individual is redlined. Right from the time you get admitted to a school you are expected to follow a certain schedule. Someone waking up at 5 or 6 AM in the morning is thought of as an impossibly disciplined individual, while someone waking up at 9 may not elicit the same respect. Someone who cracks an entrance exam in a stipulated time is given much more respect than an unlucky, intelligent fellow who is highly knowledgeable but doesn’t have the proficiency to work within time limits. It seems as though deadlines determine our action every minute of the twenty-four hours granted to us in a day. If we do not follow these predetermined deadlines, our word could lose its weight, and we may lose our say on important things in life.

Thus, deadlines are called so because, unlike other words, this particular word proclaims its importance vigorously. However, it has its own pros. People take them more seriously if they are called deadlines rather than if it were called time-limits or time-duration, but it might also result in people taking unnecessary stress and tension. So the next time you receive a deadline, be sure to stick to it, so as not to be rendered “dead” or “lifeless” in the future.




The official media house of NIT Trichy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *