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.

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, Kellogg is working on its 18th consecutive year of dividend hikes—though it should be noted that payout growth has flattened significantly in recent years. Brett Owens, Forbes, 1 June 2022 In the meanwhile, Musk got an injunction of fresh money. Anat Alon-beck, Forbes, 5 May 2022 In the meanwhile, Dorsey has fully embraced the largest cryptocurrency by including Bitcoin micropayment Lightening Network in Twitter’s tipping function and launching the NFT profile function. Jialiang David Pan,, 8 Apr. 2022 In the meanwhile, Bennett waits and hopes he will be given a shot at a human heart transplant. Brandy Schillace, Wired, 27 Jan. 2022 The last film premiered in 2018 and Baranski has some ideas about what her Dynamo alter-ego has been up to in the meanwhile. Maureen Lee Lenker,, 25 Jan. 2022 How many people would have died of rabies in the meanwhile? Vaccines work wonders. Rebecca Coffey, Forbes, 9 Dec. 2021 In the meanwhile, while moving to electric vehicles will be necessary, companies, investors, and the public should remember that there’s a lot of work that needs to be done and no immediate magic solution to a big and complex problem. Zenger News, Forbes, 11 Oct. 2021 The high school is asking families to voluntarily provide vaccination status for their students in the meanwhile. oregonlive, 16 Sep. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb Unbridled positivity, meanwhile, could lead the public to conclude that the pandemic is over. Lev Facher, STAT, 23 June 2022 Siragusa , meanwhile, could occupy two or three offensive linemen to keep them off Lewis. Mike Preston, Baltimore Sun, 22 June 2022 Members of Congress, meanwhile, get quite a bit of money, and their districts even get a few jobs, from defense contractors. Daniel Bessner, Harper’s Magazine , 22 June 2022 Disney’s Hyperion Books for Children, meanwhile, created the Black children’s imprint Jump at the Sun with the editor Andrea Davis Pinkney in 1998, and HarperCollins bought Amistad in 1999. New York Times, 22 June 2022 Critics meanwhile point to Bitcoin's voracious appetite for electricity. Christiaan Hetzner, Fortune, 22 June 2022 Its massive root system, meanwhile, stretches into adjacent properties. Ryan Martin, The Indianapolis Star, 22 June 2022 Dow, meanwhile, said the proposal would require the chemicals maker and other businesses to maintain two separate sets of records on greenhouse-gas emissions, resulting in higher costs and the need for more resources. Mark Maurer, WSJ, 21 June 2022 Rosilez, meanwhile, said Democrats shouldn’t provide Republicans any reason to talk about fishy behavior in elections, considering that Republicans already rally voters by claiming that elections were rigged or stolen. oregonlive, 21 June 2022 See More

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.

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

Time Traveler

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

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Dictionary Entries Near meanwhile

mean well


mean white

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Statistics for meanwhile

Last Updated

11 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Meanwhile.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Jul. 2022.

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More Definitions for meanwhile


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

More from Merriam-Webster on meanwhile

Nglish: Translation of meanwhile for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of meanwhile for Arabic Speakers


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