con·​tem·​po·​rary | \ kən-ˈtem-pə-ˌrer-ē How to pronounce contemporary (audio) , -ˌre-rē \

Essential Meaning of contemporary

1 : happening or beginning now or in recent times contemporary [=modern] jazz/poetry/art/furniture The story is old, but it has importance to contemporary [=current] audiences.
2 : existing or happening in the same time period : from the same time period The book is based on contemporary accounts of the war. [=accounts of the war that were written when the war was happening]

Full Definition of contemporary

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : marked by characteristics of the present period : modern, current contemporary American literature contemporary standards
2 : happening, existing, living, or coming into being during the same period of time The book is based on contemporary accounts of the war.


plural contemporaries

Definition of contemporary (Entry 2 of 2)

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

Other Words from contemporary


contemporarily \ kən-​ˌtem-​pə-​ˈrer-​ə-​lē How to pronounce contemporary (audio) \ adverb

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

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.

Examples of contemporary in a Sentence

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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Nor has the museum ever concerned itself with new—as in contemporary—art. Lance Esplund, WSJ, 8 Jan. 2022 Established to celebrate all forms of contemporary art, the relationship between MACA and ARCA is a vital one and begins the day after the museum’s inauguration with the first edition of the fledgling festival. Jamie Lang, Variety, 7 Jan. 2022 Jean-Michel Basquiat, the influential American artist whose too-brief career changed the landscape of contemporary art, will be the subject of an upcoming biopic. Emma Dibdin, Town & Country, 6 Jan. 2022 At age 22, Basquiat featured in the prestigious Whitney Biennial and, in doing so, became the youngest artist to ever represent the US in an international contemporary art exhibition, according to Christie's auction house. CNN, 6 Jan. 2022 Its 25 rooms, sprawled across several historic structures, showcase antiques, rare books, and contemporary art. Travel, 5 Jan. 2022 Set to open in June, the museum will bring together classical art, contemporary art and architecture under one roof at the very heart of downtown Oslo. David Nikel, Forbes, 1 Jan. 2022 His paintings were instantly recognizable, and no serious museum of contemporary art was complete without at least one hanging on its walls. Washington Post, 27 Dec. 2021 Non-fungible tokens stormed the gates of the contemporary-art establishment in March, when Beeple, the nom de keyboard of the digital artist Mike Winkelmann, sold a crypto-art work at Christie’s for more than sixty-nine million dollars. Andrea K. Scott, The New Yorker, 23 Dec. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The harpist Brandee Younger is an accomplished shapeshifter, often using her instrument to transmute the classical into the contemporary. Sheldon Pearce, The New Yorker, 21 Dec. 2021 Spielberg’s version successfully makes the classic contemporary. Bill Goodykoontz, Detroit Free Press, 10 Dec. 2021 After selling his old home and moving to a Piedmont, S.C., five-bedroom contemporary in October 2020, Lower decided to turn a storage area under the stairs into a unique space for Teddy and share the new project and his progress with the world. Michelle Hofmann, Forbes, 6 Dec. 2021 For my father, a contemporary of Dole's, Russell was the big city. Susan Page, USA TODAY, 5 Dec. 2021 Perhaps that explains why The Holiday has enjoyed a bit of a renaissance, even as its traditionally more popular contemporary, Love, Actually, has fallen out of favour, in part due to its lionising of mediocre white men. Anne Cohen,, 21 Nov. 2021 Spielberg’s version successfully makes the classic contemporary. Bill Goodykoontz, Detroit Free Press, 10 Dec. 2021 Spielberg’s version successfully makes the classic contemporary. Bill Goodykoontz, The Arizona Republic, 3 Dec. 2021 Cey was unfortunately a direct contemporary of Mike Schmidt and George Brett, who many think are the two greatest third baseman in history. Los Angeles Times, 10 Sep. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'contemporary.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of contemporary


1614, in the meaning defined at sense 2


1614, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for contemporary


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

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The first known use of contemporary was in 1614

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Last Updated

12 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Contemporary.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for contemporary


con·​tem·​po·​rary | \ kən-ˈtem-pə-ˌrer-ē How to pronounce contemporary (audio) \

Kids Definition of contemporary

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : living or occurring at the same period of time Mark Twain and Jack London were contemporary writers.
2 : modern sense 1 contemporary musicians


plural contemporaries

Kids Definition of contemporary (Entry 2 of 2)

: a person who lives at the same time or is about the same age as another Mark Twain and Jack London were contemporaries.

More from Merriam-Webster on contemporary

Nglish: Translation of contemporary for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of contemporary for Arabic Speakers


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