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.

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun In the meanwhile, the two of you could go for walks together, try yoga classes online or find time to dance to the latest TikTok craze. cleveland, "Dear Annie: I’m worried about my daughter’s weight," 3 Jan. 2021 In the meanwhile, the two of you could go for walks together, try yoga classes online or find time to dance to the latest TikTok craze. Annie Lane, oregonlive, "Dear Annie: Showing healthy habits may encourage daughter to be more active," 3 Jan. 2021 In the meanwhile, doctor offices and medical clinics remain open and adhere to safety protocols. Beth Wood, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Drop in cancer diagnoses masking an urgent health concern," 22 Dec. 2020 In the meanwhile, Guzman thinks everyone should get their hands on a telescope. Giulia Heyward And Brian Ries, CNN, "You can see every planet in our solar system this week," 13 Nov. 2020 In the meanwhile, Dee Dee Watters of Black Transwomen Inc has raised nearly $10,000 to support Iyanna Dior. Dana Snitzky, Longreads, "This Week in Books: We’ve All Been Briefed," 10 Aug. 2020 In the meanwhile, decide for your family, what your schedule can look like everyday. The Washington Post, "On Parenting: Meghan Leahy took your questions," 5 Aug. 2020 In the meanwhile, if the noise is simply too much for your three year old, look at headphones! The Washington Post, "On Parenting: Meghan Leahy took your questions," 24 June 2020 In the meanwhile, other studies are looking at whether the drug might be effective if used earlier in the disease progression. Alice Park, Time, "WHO Resumes Study of Hydroxychloroquine for Treating COVID-19," 3 June 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb Miller, meanwhile, argues that illness allows the sick person to reevaluate what’s serving them and what isn’t. Anna Altman, The New Republic, "The Consolations of the Illness Memoir," 17 Feb. 2021 Hussain, meanwhile, is just trying to get through the pandemic. New York Times, "The pandemic has catalyzed a long-predicted shift toward remote work. Many office workers don’t want to return to the old ways — and that means big changes for people in all kinds of other jobs, too.," 17 Feb. 2021 Other residents, meanwhile, abandoned their frigid homes for warmer temperatures. Marina Starleaf Riker, San Antonio Express-News, "'We're wearing jackets and scarves inside our house': Temperatures plunge as thousands without heat," 16 Feb. 2021 Now Facebook, meanwhile, has been more aggressively planning to let its workers toil from anywhere. Gregory Barber, Wired, "If Work Is Going Remote, Why Is Big Tech Still Building?," 16 Feb. 2021 Curry, meanwhile, finished 36 points on 13-for-19 shooting (7-for-11 from 3-point range), six assists and two rebounds. Connor Letourneau, San Francisco Chronicle, "Warriors ride Green-Curry connection to rout of Cavaliers," 15 Feb. 2021 For a wealthy and well-connected scoundrel like McKenzie, meanwhile, Nome also presented a unique opportunity. David James, Anchorage Daily News, "Book review: The ‘wicked conspiracy’ that shaped Gold Rush-era Nome," 14 Feb. 2021 Timberlake, meanwhile, not only appeared at the Grammys, but was allowed to issue an apology at the event, and then went on to headline the Super Bowl halftime show in 2018, while Jackson has never been invited back. Mitchell Peters, Billboard, "Jessica Biel Shows Support for Justin Timberlake After His Apology to Britney Spears & Janet Jackson," 13 Feb. 2021 King Soopers, meanwhile, instructs such customers to wear an alternate face covering, such as a shield, or to take advantage of their pickup or delivery options. Michael Bartiromo, Fox News, "Supermarket shopper slaps employee who tried to enforce mask rule, video shows," 12 Feb. 2021

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.

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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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Learn More about meanwhile

Time Traveler for meanwhile

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for meanwhile

Last Updated

7 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Meanwhile.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Mar. 2021.

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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

More from Merriam-Webster on meanwhile

Nglish: Translation of meanwhile for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of meanwhile for Arabic Speakers

Comments on meanwhile

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