The word deadline was first used during the American Civil War to describe a line which, if a prisoner crossed it, could result in the prisoner’s death. Even though most deadlines today won’t end in murder, Americans still feel that correlation when talking about a deadline, and they tend to treat it like a life-or-death matter.

Deadline: a line drawn within or around a prison that a prisoner passes at the risk of being shot;  a date or time before which something must be done; the time after which copy is not accepted for a particular issue of a publication. First known use was in 1864.

Examples: She worked on her composition right up until the deadline. We had to hurry to meet the deadline. The project was completed a week past its deadline. The deadline for submitting college applications is April 19th. They’re working under a deadline.

Deadlines and recovery from missed deadlines are so important to Americans that many job interviewers specifically ask applicants to describe a time that they missed a deadline and how they recovered from it. If you type missed deadline into Google, you’re immediately bombarded with self-help websites describing how to recover from a missed deadline.

In 2013, the Prince George’s County school system lost $1.4 million of state funds when it failed to approve school construction contracts within their two year deadline. Although the school district was very close to approving these contracts, no extension was given, and the money had to be returned.