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con·​tem·​po·​rary kən-ˈtem-pə-ˌrer-ē How to pronounce contemporary (audio)
: marked by characteristics of the present period : modern, current
contemporary American literature
contemporary standards
: happening, existing, living, or coming into being during the same period of time
The book is based on contemporary accounts of the war.
contemporarily adverb


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plural contemporaries
: one that is contemporary with another
Petrarch and Chaucer were contemporaries.
: one of the same or nearly the same age as another

Did you know?

Contemporary can be confusing because of its slightly different meanings. In everyday use, it generally means simply "modern" or "new". But before the 20th century it instead referred only to things from the same era as certain other things; so, for instance, Jesus was contemporary with the Roman emperors Augustus and Tiberius, and Muhammad was contemporary with Pope Gregory the Great. And contemporary is also a noun: thus, Jane Austen's contemporaries included Coleridge and Wordsworth, and your own contemporaries were born around the same year that you were.

Choose the Right Synonym for contemporary

contemporary, contemporaneous, coeval, synchronous, simultaneous, coincident mean existing or occurring at the same time.

contemporary is likely to apply to people and what relates to them.

Abraham Lincoln was contemporary with Charles Darwin

contemporaneous is more often applied to events than to people.

contemporaneous accounts of the kidnapping

coeval refers usually to periods, ages, eras, eons.

two stars thought to be coeval

synchronous implies exact correspondence in time and especially in periodic intervals.

synchronous timepieces

simultaneous implies correspondence in a moment of time.

the two shots were simultaneous

coincident is applied to events and may be used in order to avoid implication of causal relationship.

the end of World War II was coincident with a great vintage year

Example Sentences

Adjective the absurd notion that early cave dwellers were contemporary with the dinosaurs a magazine devoted to contemporary fashions Noun He was a contemporary of George Washington. She is politically very different from most of her contemporaries.
Recent Examples on the Web
Bright color combos inside and out call back to the '60s, but with a contemporary spin and fully modern tech. Elana Scherr, Car and Driver, 3 June 2023 Weil’s early-’80s hot streak in quiet-storm soul music also included this stately Bryson number, which Weil co-wrote with Tom Snow and Michael Masser and which topped Billboard’s adult contemporary chart for four weeks. Mikael Wood, Los Angeles Times, 2 June 2023 Henry Kissinger turned 100 last weekend, warning, with undimmed fervor, of two contemporary threats to an increasingly unstable world: the standoff between America and China, and the growing power of artificial intelligence. Ned Temko, The Christian Science Monitor, 2 June 2023 Ferrara seems no smarter than those peasants when his film implies very contemporary fascist/socialist confusion and imputes partisan accusations. Armond White, National Review, 2 June 2023 Its heyday was 850 to about 1150, after which the ancestors of the contemporary Pueblo and Hopi peoples moved away in the wake of what some believe to be a long-term drought. Debra Utacia Krol, The Arizona Republic, 2 June 2023 Across five novels, a book of stories and another of essays, the great German writer Jenny Erpenbeck has explored life in police states, the experiences of refugees in contemporary Berlin and the way many lives can rest in layers upon one plot of land. Robert Rubsam, Washington Post, 2 June 2023 The second floor of the boutique will house a dazzling collection of Bucherer Fine Jewelry, including one-of-a-kind masterpieces and contemporary jewels. Demetrius Simms, Robb Report, 2 June 2023 From there, Silvestri works with her team of 12 designers and the Bulgari workshops in Rome to create the expansive collection, balancing history with contemporary artisan techniques. Sean Santiago, ELLE Decor, 2 June 2023
Klement’s contemporaries marveled at the jam’s sheer mass. Adam M. Sowards, Smithsonian Magazine, 25 May 2023 In this show, they’re shown alongside pieces by Drake’s contemporaries, most of them unknown, as well as current works by artists such as Simone Leigh, connecting his past mastery to the present day. Globe Staff,, 24 May 2023 Abrams explores the intellectual history of debates about education by mid-century contemporaries like Harvard president James Conant, Phillips Andover teacher Alan Blackmer and Kenyon College president Gordon Chalmers. David Perry, Washington Post, 27 Apr. 2023 His work is different from a lot of his contemporaries in that that’s intentional. Duante Beddingfield, Detroit Free Press, 27 Apr. 2023 Geometric abstraction was popular in ‘50s Venezuela, and the work of her contemporaries often had architectural qualities. Jonathon Keats, Forbes, 20 Apr. 2023 Some of Savonarola’s contemporaries solved the problem. Blake Gopnik, New York Times, 1 Mar. 2023 The group of drivers being added to the list, selected by an independent panel, include such Kenseth contemporaries as Kurt and Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr., and such younger stars such as Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson. Dave Kallmann, Journal Sentinel, 10 May 2023 Just compare it to its contemporaries, the 1950s U.S. M48 Patton and the Soviet T-55. Michael Peck, Popular Mechanics, 10 May 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'contemporary.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



probably borrowed from New Latin contemporārius "existing at the same period of time," from Latin con- con- + tempor-, tempus "time" + -ārius -ary entry 2 — more at tempo

Note: The suffixation may be modeled on Latin temporārius; see temporary entry 1.


derivative of contemporary entry 1, or from nominal use of its probable source, New Latin contemporārius

First Known Use


1614, in the meaning defined at sense 2


1614, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of contemporary was in 1614

Dictionary Entries Near contemporary

Cite this Entry

“Contemporary.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Jun. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 adjective
con·​tem·​po·​rary kən-ˈtem-pə-ˌrer-ē How to pronounce contemporary (audio)
: living or occurring at the same period of time
: of the present time : modern, current


2 of 2 noun
plural contemporaries
: a person who lives at the same time or is about the same age as another

More from Merriam-Webster on contemporary

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