I'd like to know how to make sentences using "downtime". I came across this word for the first time today and when I looked up in the dictionary, the meaning is almost the same as "free time" or "spare time". Am I correct? Then is it all right if I say the followings? In my downtime I like to go cycling. I need some downtime next week. I also like to know if I can use this word interchangeably with free time or spare time. Is this word very common in daily conversation?

  • Thank you for all your answers. There is a very popular program on the radio in Japan. In this English program there was a dialogue between two people. "What do you like to do in you downtime (or maybe down time)?" "I have so many things to do depending on the season, such as playing guitar, gardening or baking." This reply was by a native speaker of English. So I thought I might use this word myself. However, it seems like it's better not to use this word after reading all your answers. Maybe I'm getting confused. Thank you, anyway, for your answers. May 28, 2013 at 23:27
  • @ tennis girl: Per the chart in my answer, down time is non-existent by comparison with downtime. Also note that even the relatively uncommon off time (with a space) still occurs far more often than downtime. Okay - usage is changing, and it's only been a couple of decades since computer "downtime" has been a familiar concept to most of us. But it's still essentially a "young geek" term, even though it would normally be understood by all. May 29, 2013 at 0:03

4 Answers 4


I wouldn't use downtime at all in a "personal" context. As this NGram shows, in recent decades some people have transferred the "office jargon" term for non-operational through not working to free...

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...but to me it carries unwanted overtones of "I'm just a cog in the machine". And relatively speaking it's not at all common, so if you want to sound like most native speakers, just avoid it...

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  • It's pretty commonly used here in Australia - unless you are having a technical conversation, the use of "downtime" will be taken to mean the same as "free time" :) May 28, 2013 at 22:55
  • @harrietgrace: I've no doubt there will be places where it's commonly used in this highly figurative sense. And if a learner finds himself in such a place, obviously it would only be sensible to copy the native speakers. But there will be many, many more places where the natives will just think "How quaint!". Surely it makes sense to learn the terms 99% of Anglophones worldwide use first, and only use quirky/hip variants when you're sure you're in the company of people who won't see anything "odd" in them. May 28, 2013 at 23:03
  • I was just providing a frame of reference for my answer, not disagreeing with you :) May 29, 2013 at 1:20
  • @FumbleFingers Now I understand that it depends on which country your are in and also what you pointed out in the comment above is, maybe, the most difficult part for learners. May 29, 2013 at 2:03
  • @tennis girl: The votes here are certainly disappointing. There's currently one upvote and one downvote for my answer, netting down to zero. The only other one is my upvote for mustafa's answer - which doesn't really mean anything, because I personally wouldn't use the word in this sense, and quite possibly I've never heard anyone else do so either. But since I'd understand it, and it's such a trivial metaphoric extension from the commonplace "network server" sense, I doubt I'd bother remembering even if I had heard it now and then. May 29, 2013 at 14:05

I would definitely say that "downtime" is commonly used. It will make sense if it is used interchangeably with "free time" or "spare time", but it generally implies relaxation, rest or a halt in activities.

If you were to say "In my downtime I like to go cycling" then it would imply that for you cycling is relaxing. The phrase "In my free time I like to go cycling" doesn't carry this implication.

  • Thank you for the clarification. Then I have another question. If I say,"Cooking is my downtime." Does it make sense? May 28, 2013 at 7:24
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    @tennisgirl No, 'downtime', like 'free time' or 'spare time', is when you are free to cook (or cycle or whatever), it is not used for the activity itself. May 28, 2013 at 11:00
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    I agree that downtime is similar to free time, but I mostly hear the word used to mean doing nothing in particular, rather than actively indulging in something relaxing. "The kids are really busy after school and at weekends with sports, homework, Scouts and so on. Sometimes they just need some downtime."
    – toandfro
    Mar 4, 2014 at 19:46

The term downtime has a sense of "unavailablity". It is "outage duration" that refers to a period of time that a system fails to provide or perform its primary function e.g;

We need to minimize network downtime.

I'm going to say that the answer to this question is sort of a combination of harrietgrace and mustafa's answers.

The vast majority of the time, the word downtime is a negative thing meaning that a system is not working (often "network downtime" as mustafa mentioned).

On the other hand, the word can also occasionally mean something like "free time." Normally, I pronounce the word as two words when using it in this sense. I am not sure whether it is properly spelled "downtime" or "down time." In this case, I somewhat disagree with the idea that what you do during your downtime must be relaxing to you. Merriam-Webster.com's second definition parenthetically indicates that the word applies in-between periods of work. I think this is more or less consistent with the way the phrase is used in practice. For example, someone who works two jobs - one in the morning and one at night - might have a couple of hours of downtime between jobs. That person might spend that time paying bills, doing taxes, napping, etc.

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