mean·while | \ˈmēn-ˌhwī(-ə)l, -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.

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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 In the meanwhile, a lot of regulations in the US are being reversed. Mary Wang, Vogue, "Gloria Steinem's Advice for The Next Generation of Feminists Is a Must-Read for Our Time," 13 Oct. 2017

Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb

The beverage industry, meanwhile, defends the California law. Laura Mccrystal,, "California banned new soda taxes. Could it happen in Pennsylvania?," 12 July 2018 Their children, meanwhile, were taken by U.S. Health and Human Services. Phil Mccausland /, NBC News, "Government says around 2,551 migrant children still need reunification with parents," 14 July 2018 Chen, meanwhile, has just four career hits, including three this season. Matthew Defranks,, "A Closer Look: Philadelphia Phillies 2, Miami Marlins 0," 14 July 2018 On Friday, meanwhile, that Trump-Putin summit was given a dramatic complication, when the US Justice Department announced new charges were being filed against 12 Russian intelligence officers accused of hacking Democratic Party emails. Howard Lafranchi, The Christian Science Monitor, "How strong a Europe does US want? In Trump era, that's still the issue.," 13 July 2018 Your list of Story viewers, meanwhile, is determined by a different system. Madeline Buxton,, "How Does Instagram Stories Rank Your Viewers? It's Complicated," 13 July 2018 The federal government, meanwhile, plans to clean up a plume of cancer-causing solvent discovered beneath a former Kiel Bros. station that threatens drinking water near the Pence family's hometown. Brian Slodysko, Houston Chronicle, "Pence family gas stations left costly environmental legacy," 13 July 2018 The federal government, meanwhile, plans to clean up a plume of cancer-causing solvent discovered beneath a former Kiel Bros. station that threatens drinking water near the Pence family's hometown. Brian Slodysko, The Courier-Journal, "Cleanup of Pence family's failed gas stations cost Indiana taxpayers $20M," 13 July 2018 Cuomo, meanwhile, expectedly secured the party’s nomination back in May. The two will officially face off on September 13. Gabriella Paiella, The Cut, "Cynthia Nixon Got Over 65,000 Signatures to Appear on the Primary Ballot," 13 July 2018

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.

See More

First Known Use of meanwhile


14th century, in the meaning defined above


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about meanwhile

Phrases Related to meanwhile

in the meanwhile

Statistics for meanwhile

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for meanwhile

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for meanwhile



English Language Learners Definition of meanwhile

: at or during the same time : in the meantime


mean·while | \ˈmēn-ˌhwīl, -ˌwīl\

Kids Definition of meanwhile

 (Entry 1 of 2)



Kids Definition of meanwhile (Entry 2 of 2)

2 : at the same time

Keep scrolling for more

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).


a generally accepted meaning of a word

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Great Scrabble Words—A Quiz

  • scrabble-tiles-that-read-scrabble-quiz
  • Which of the following Q-without-U words means the number five in cards or dice?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!