mean·​while | \ ˈmēn-ˌ(h)wī(-ə)l How to pronounce meanwhile (audio) \

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

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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun In the meanwhile, those close to the young woman are calling on the hospital to change their emergency department procedures, so no other family or an ailing patient has to go through the same set of circumstances. Tanya A. Christian, Essence, "Milwaukee Woman Dies After Being Left Unattended In Emergency Room," 13 Jan. 2020 Arroyo and Cristobal agreed to maintain the continuity for Oregon’s players in the bowl game and the onus falls mostly on Arroyo to balance his two jobs in the meanwhile. oregonlive, "Marcus Arroyo excited to ‘to finish it out’ with Oregon Ducks before embarking for UNLV," 20 Dec. 2019 Episode Two meanwhile will add a second raid, and missions in the Pentagon. Hayden Dingman, PCWorld, "Ubisoft's biggest E3 2019 announcements: Watch Dogs Legion, Rainbow Six Quarantine, Uplay+," 10 June 2019 In the meanwhile, campaign season resources should be reinvestedin coverage of what our elections are ultimately for: questions of public policy. Osita Nwanevu, The New Republic, "Joe Biden Is Right About The New York Times," 13 Oct. 2019 The passing average meanwhile is virtually unchanged from last season. Robert Avery, Houston Chronicle, "Mavs host District 22-6A’s surprise team Saturday night," 27 Sep. 2019 But in the meanwhile, people were unhappy with the past system, but they were used to the past system. Vivienne Walt / Paris, Time, "'I'm in This Death Valley.' Read Our Full Conversation with Emmanuel Macron," 19 Sep. 2019 In the meanwhile, the school says that a back-to-school rally featuring messages of acceptance is being planned for Friday. Tanya A. Christian, Essence, "'No Black People Policy' Makes Rounds At Sacramento-Area High School," 23 Aug. 2019 An Etsy spokesperson told The Verge that the company is starting with the US, its largest and most mature market for now, and is providing guides for international shipping strategies in the meanwhile for non-US sellers. Dami Lee, The Verge, "Etsy sellers aren’t happy with the platform pushing them to offer free shipping," 9 July 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb Mayor Chris Riley, meanwhile, is the subject of an ethics complaint filed by Charles that relates to the mayor’s handling of Martinez’s forfeiture hearing and the mayor’s conduct on the dais. Scott Huddleston,, "Leon Valley city manager resigns amid political tension," 3 Feb. 2020 The Air Max 270, meanwhile, was the first shoe in Nike’s Air Max lineage created specifically for casual use rather than anything athletic. Marc Bain, Quartz, "A newcomer and a classic by Nike were the US’s top-selling sneakers for 2019," 1 Feb. 2020 The flagship beer at Fort Point, meanwhile, is its mild, light-bodied KSA, a Kolsch-style ale, which, like the rest of the Fort Point core portfolio, is brewed year-round and available in cans at your local bodega. Esther Mobley, San Francisco Chronicle, "San Francisco’s new hometown brewery," 31 Jan. 2020 Pet parents, meanwhile, can get real-time updates during their flight. Joseph Neese, House Beautiful, "Delta Launches New Cargo Carriers to Make Flying With Pets Easier," 25 Jan. 2020 Castorani, meanwhile, continues to position himself as more of an outsider candidate. John Sharp |, al, "5 Takeaways from Alabama Congressional District 1 forum," 24 Jan. 2020 The city's attorney, meanwhile, continued to assert that the Satanic Temple could not classify itself as a religion and did not experience religious discrimination as a result. Lorraine Longhi, azcentral, "A church sent 15,207 emails to Scottsdale opposing Satanist invocation, trial reveals," 23 Jan. 2020 Not one player on this Chiefs team, meanwhile, was alive the last time this franchise played on Super Sunday. Andy Nesbitt, For The Win, "Kansas City Chiefs fans deserve this Super Bowl so darn much," 23 Jan. 2020 Microsoft, meanwhile, has continued to reap the benefits of its offshore deals. Paul Kiel, ProPublica, "The IRS Decided to Get Tough Against Microsoft. Microsoft Got Tougher.," 22 Jan. 2020

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

Time Traveler for meanwhile

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for meanwhile

Last Updated

27 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Meanwhile.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Feb. 2020.

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 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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

More Confusing Words—Quiz

  • cats on impossible timber
  • The magician ______ moved the selected card to the top of the deck.
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Add Diction

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!