mean·​while | \ ˈmēn-ˌhwī(-ə)l How to pronounce meanwhile (audio) , -ˌwī(-ə)l\

Definition of meanwhile

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: the time before something happens or before a specified period ends : meantime in the meanwhile colleges and universities have become somewhere near one hundred times more complex— Dennis O'Brien



Definition of meanwhile (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : during the intervening time meanwhile, however, new projects are being undertaken this year— Jonathan Eberhart
2 : at the same time You can set the table, and meanwhile I'll start cooking dinner.

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Meantime vs. Meanwhile


Meantime and meanwhile have both been used as nouns in prepositional phrases like "in the meantime/meanwhile" since their earliest use in the 1300s. Both have been used as adverbs, like in "meanwhile/meantime, down at the farm…," since the late 1500s. They've been interchangeable for pretty much all of their long histories. But that doesn't mean they don't each have their favorite territory.

Meantime is the one that's usually used as a noun—that is, as the object of the preposition in phrases like "in the meantime" and "for the meantime":

We're headed to the beach this afternoon. In the meantime, I'm going to the grocery store.

And meanwhile is the usual choice for the role of adverb:

The kids are excited about the beach. Meanwhile, someone has to think about dinner.

But you'll see and hear examples that are counter to these generalizations, like the following:

In the meanwhile, someone should find the beach towels.

The baby is napping. Meantime, the older kids are looking for beach toys.

"In the meanwhile" has been accused of being "unidiomatic" (i.e. of sounding weird), but it isn't so unidiomatic that native speakers instinctively avoid it. If you use it, there's no reason you should stop.

But if you want to use this pair in the ways they're most often used and need help remembering which goes where, you can think of this sentence:

In the time it takes to say "in the meantime," you could just as well say "meanwhile."

Examples of meanwhile in a Sentence


You can set the table. Meanwhile, I'll start making dinner. She spent four years studying for her law degree. Meanwhile, she continued to work at the bank. He can come back to work when he's feeling better, but meanwhile he should be resting as much as possible.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

In the meanwhile, check out all the other places the Trekker captured, like scientist Jane Goodall’s office in Tanzania, and the view from the inside of the Eiffel Tower. Dami Lee, The Verge, "Google updated its Street View Trekker to look slightly less dorky," 18 Dec. 2018 In the meanwhile, Mattarella has appointed a technocratic, pro-austerity interim government—a move that only plays into the hands of the frustrated League and 5Star Movement parties, who now get to whip up more anti-establishment sentiment. Alan Murray, Fortune, "Italian Turmoil, Spanish Turmoil, North Korea: CEO Daily for May 29, 2018," 29 May 2018 The shares of other game makers have wobbled in the meanwhile. Christopher Palmeri,, "Millions of women will make Fortnite a billion-dollar game," 29 May 2018 In the meanwhile there are scenes to be shot for Daniels down in Atlanta, parties to attend, vacations to take. Danielle Stein Chizzik, Town & Country, "Naomi Campbell Just Keeps Getting Better," 2 Feb. 2017 In the meanwhile, her husband brought the case to the Supreme Court to appeal the decision. Steve George, CNN, "India's top court upholds interfaith marriage, in alleged case of 'love jihad'," 11 Apr. 2018 In the meanwhile, a quiz show blares away on the hospice television. Mark Swed,, "My Lai massacre, 50 years later: Jonathan Berger's opera captures the madness," 12 Mar. 2018 In the meanwhile, many companies are already investing in UAV technology, including Amazon, Aeryon Labs, the startup Skycatch and, through its acquisition of Titan Aerospace, Google. Gabrielle Jonas, Newsweek, "Where Have All the Good Jobs Gone? Ask a Robot.," 30 Nov. 2014 So the rumor mill and debates will continue in the meanwhile. Ryan Young, ajc, "Checking in on Florida’s rumored coaching candidates and how they fared this weekend," 5 Nov. 2017

Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb

Sophomore pitcher Briana Bower, meanwhile, tossed a two-hitter and struck out 13 for the Red Raiders (35-7). Tony Baranek, Elgin Courier-News, "History made: Sofia Tenuta's sacrifice fly sends Huntley to first team state title in school history," 11 June 2019 First-quarter imports from South Korea meanwhile rose by 17%. Dan K. Eberhart For Cnn Business Perspectives, CNN, "Trump's trade war is here to stay. Companies like mine will pay the price," 11 June 2019 The full-size version meanwhile proceeded to Dublin amid reports that the larger balloon had been impaled. Richard Morgan, Fortune, "The Story Behind the Baby Trump Balloon," 8 June 2019 The woman’s domed body, meanwhile, is decorated with a series of elongated ridges. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian, "The High Line’s Art-Centric Final Section Is Officially Open," 7 June 2019 The departure last year of Laurence Tosi as CFO of Airbnb Inc., meanwhile, raised questions about Airbnb’s plans for an initial public offering. Ezequiel Minaya, WSJ, "Silicon Valley Needs a Few Good CFOs," 24 May 2019 Lori's absence, meanwhile, also undoubtedly has made things more emotional for the Full House/Fuller House crew. Kayla Keegan, Good Housekeeping, "'Fuller House' Star Candace Cameron Bure Gets Emotional at First Reading Sans Lori Loughlin," 24 May 2019 California residents, meanwhile, can book a similar excursion departing from Avalon starting at $46/person. Daisy Hernandez, Popular Mechanics, "Now You Can Take an Uber Straight into the Sea," 24 May 2019 Inside, meanwhile, the house's decor is all breezy, beachy style: white, slipcovered furniture, natural wicker accents, and plenty of blue-and-white stripes make for a comfortable, classic look befitting America's sweetheart. Hadley Keller, House Beautiful, "Sandra Bullock Is Selling Her Georgia Beach House for $6.5 Million," 27 Mar. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'meanwhile.' 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 meanwhile


14th century, in the meaning defined above


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Time Traveler for meanwhile

The first known use of meanwhile was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for meanwhile



English Language Learners Definition of meanwhile

: at or during the same time : in the meantime


mean·​while | \ ˈmēn-ˌhwīl How to pronounce meanwhile (audio) , -ˌwīl\

Kids Definition of meanwhile

 (Entry 1 of 2)



Kids Definition of meanwhile (Entry 2 of 2)

2 : at the same time

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More from Merriam-Webster on meanwhile

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with meanwhile

Spanish Central: Translation of meanwhile

Nglish: Translation of meanwhile for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of meanwhile for Arabic Speakers

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