1

meanwhile

noun mean·while \ ˈmēn-ˌhwī(-ə)l , -ˌwī(-ə)l \
|Updated on: 26 Jul 2018

Definition of meanwhile

: 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

Recent Examples of meanwhile from the Web

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

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2

meanwhile

adverb

Definition of meanwhile

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.

Examples of meanwhile in a Sentence

  1. You can set the table. Meanwhile, I'll start making dinner.

  2. She spent four years studying for her law degree. Meanwhile, she continued to work at the bank.

  3. He can come back to work when he's feeling better, but meanwhile he should be resting as much as possible.

Recent Examples of meanwhile from the Web

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.

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."

First Known Use of meanwhile

14th century

in the meaning defined at sense 1

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MEANWHILE Defined for English Language Learners

meanwhile

Definition of meanwhile for English Language Learners

  • : at or during the same time : in the meantime


MEANWHILE Defined for Kids

1

meanwhile

noun mean·while \ ˈmēn-ˌhwīl , -ˌwīl \

Definition of meanwhile for Students


2

meanwhile

adverb

Definition of meanwhile for Students

1 : 2meantime
2 : at the same time


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