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

Huawei, meanwhile, is on its own campaign to put those concerns at rest. Dan Strumpf, WSJ, "Major U.S. Ally in Middle East Forges Ahead With Huawei," 26 Feb. 2019 The Matebook 14, meanwhile, looks a lot like the Matebook 13 that came before it, though obviously with a larger display. Mark Hachman, PCWorld, "Huawei refreshes the Matebook X Pro and adds a larger Matebook 14," 24 Feb. 2019 The girls and women who reported abuse by Epstein, meanwhile, were markedly powerless. Jane Coaston, Vox, "Jeffrey Epstein, the convicted sex offender who is friends with Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, explained," 22 Feb. 2019 Cameras, meanwhile, are best at recognizing objects by differentiating between, say, a heavy motorcycle and a lightweight bicycle. Matthew Jancer, Popular Mechanics, "Your Next Car Could Have Airbags That Inflate on the Outside," 15 Feb. 2019 Casey, meanwhile, wore a navy tuxedo and bright pink loafers, both from Paul Smith. Brooke Porter Katz, Harper's BAZAAR, "Ellen Bennett & Casey Caplowe's Wedding Was Outside-The-Box in Every Way," 14 Feb. 2019 Joe, meanwhile, kept things much more casual in a white shirt, oversized jacket and sneakers. Lucy Wood, Marie Claire, "Sophie Turner and Joe Jonas Were Absolutely the Cutest at the Grammys After Party," 11 Feb. 2019 Spike Lee, meanwhile, earned his first-ever BAFTA, for BlackKkKlansman's screenplay. Vogue, "The Full List of 2019 BAFTA Winners," 10 Feb. 2019 This Golden Globes dress, meanwhile, has officially sent me off the deep end. Christopher Rosa, Glamour, "Lady Gaga's Golden Globes 2019 Look Is a Throwback to Judy Garland's A Star Is Born," 6 Jan. 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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Statistics for meanwhile

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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

Comments on meanwhile

What made you want to look up meanwhile? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to move or proceed with twists and turns

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