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Not even a full second of time; an instant. Hyphenated if used as a modifier before a noun. There was only a split second separating the top two competitors in the race. It was a split-second decision that undoubtedly saved hundreds of lives. It was heartbreaking to see the entire building reduced to rubble in a split second.
an instant; a tiny period of time. (*Typically: for ~; in ~.) The lightning struck, and in a split second the house burst into flames. For a split second, it looked like she would fall.
An instant, a fraction of a second, as in Our best swimmer came in a split second before theirs. This expression alludes to a stop watch that has two second hands, one above the other, for timing more than one athlete or intervals of a race by a single athlete. Each hand can be stopped independently of the other, so a second can be "split" when one second hand stops a fraction of a second after the other. [c. 1880]