meanwhile

1 of 2

noun

mean·​while ˈmēn-ˌ(h)wī(-ə)l How to pronounce meanwhile (audio)
: 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 complexDennis O'Brien

meanwhile

2 of 2

adverb

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

Did you know?

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

Adverb 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.
Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
In the meanwhile, at least some blink fans are wondering if one, two, or all three band members might show up when the San Diego Padres take on the Philadelphia Phillies Tuesday afternoon at Petco Park for the first National League Championship Series game. George Varga, San Diego Union-Tribune, 17 Oct. 2022 In the meanwhile, a community like Unalaska now has got fiber, and that is taking shape at the final mile level, getting fiber right into people’s homes and their businesses, and so forth. Isabelle Ross, Anchorage Daily News, 16 Jan. 2023 In the meanwhile, look elsewhere -- there are plenty of other men who might be interested in you romantically, as long as you’re not obsessed with Stan. Annie Lane, oregonlive, 28 Jan. 2023 In the meanwhile, Nix has helped recruit players in the transfer portal to UO over the past two weeks. oregonlive, 16 Dec. 2022 In the meanwhile, people who crawl through to sit inside the under-belly of the big knit can give themselves over to watching overlapping video montages of Bovan and a friend in York riding a bucking bronco. Sarah Mower, Vogue, 1 Dec. 2022 In the meanwhile, the DOD’s rollout of its policy change has not been smooth. Jordan Gonsalves, Time, 1 Dec. 2022 In the meanwhile, children can go to school paying domestic tuition rates. Andy J. Semotiuk, Forbes, 11 Oct. 2022
Adverb
Dangerous, unlawful border crossings, meanwhile, continue. Henry Gass, The Christian Science Monitor, 5 Apr. 2024 Officials in Norfolk, meanwhile, are bracing for an increase in traffic, as vessels that would have docked in Baltimore are rerouted to other ports. David J. Lynch, Washington Post, 26 Mar. 2024 James' office, meanwhile, noted that the judgment still stands, even if collection is paused. Compiled Bydemocrat-Gazette Stafffrom Wire Reports, arkansasonline.com, 26 Mar. 2024 The Powerball lottery, meanwhile, currently stands at a not-too-shabby $800 million. Chris Morris, Fortune, 25 Mar. 2024 But local Kansas City authorities, meanwhile, have declined to say whether other suspects are under investigation. Bill Lukitsch, Kansas City Star, 25 Mar. 2024 State lawmakers, meanwhile, overwhelmingly approved a bill this week to reverse a 2020 measure that decriminalized possession of hard substances, including fentanyl, which now awaits approval by the state’s governor. Josh Campbell, CNN, 2 Mar. 2024 Financing for independent features, meanwhile, is an uphill battle. Christopher Vourlias, Variety, 2 Mar. 2024 Women who opened up in the communities, meanwhile, have felt their safety was put at risk. Marisa Iati, Washington Post, 2 Mar. 2024

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

Word History

First Known Use

Noun

14th century, in the meaning defined above

Adverb

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near meanwhile

Cite this Entry

“Meanwhile.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/meanwhile. Accessed 13 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition

meanwhile

1 of 2 noun
mean·​while ˈmēn-ˌhwīl How to pronounce meanwhile (audio)
-ˌwīl

meanwhile

2 of 2 adverb
1
2
: at the same time

More from Merriam-Webster on meanwhile

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