mean·​while | \ˈmēn-ˌhwī(-ə)l, -ˌwī(-ə)l\

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


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, Mattarella has appointed a technocratic, pro-austerity interim government—a move that only plays into the hands of the frustrated League and 5Star Movement parties, who now get to whip up more anti-establishment sentiment. Alan Murray, Fortune, "Italian Turmoil, Spanish Turmoil, North Korea: CEO Daily for May 29, 2018," 29 May 2018 The shares of other game makers have wobbled in the meanwhile. Christopher Palmeri,, "Millions of women will make Fortnite a billion-dollar game," 29 May 2018 In the meanwhile there are scenes to be shot for Daniels down in Atlanta, parties to attend, vacations to take. Danielle Stein Chizzik, Town & Country, "Naomi Campbell Just Keeps Getting Better," 2 Feb. 2017 In the meanwhile, her husband brought the case to the Supreme Court to appeal the decision. Steve George, CNN, "India's top court upholds interfaith marriage, in alleged case of 'love jihad'," 11 Apr. 2018 In the meanwhile, a quiz show blares away on the hospice television. Mark Swed,, "My Lai massacre, 50 years later: Jonathan Berger's opera captures the madness," 12 Mar. 2018 In the meanwhile, many companies are already investing in UAV technology, including Amazon, Aeryon Labs, the startup Skycatch and, through its acquisition of Titan Aerospace, Google. Gabrielle Jonas, Newsweek, "Where Have All the Good Jobs Gone? Ask a Robot.," 30 Nov. 2014 So the rumor mill and debates will continue in the meanwhile. Ryan Young, ajc, "Checking in on Florida’s rumored coaching candidates and how they fared this weekend," 5 Nov. 2017 In the meanwhile, a lot of regulations in the US are being reversed. Mary Wang, Vogue, "Gloria Steinem's Advice for The Next Generation of Feminists Is a Must-Read for Our Time," 13 Oct. 2017

Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb

The criticism, meanwhile, took some of the luster off a clear military and diplomatic victory. Gerald F. Seib, WSJ, "The Courage of George H.W. Bush: Avoiding the Easy Path," 3 Dec. 2018 Austerity measures aimed at rebuilding the economy after years of unrest have meanwhile taken a heavy toll on poor and middle-class Egyptians. Samy Magdy, The Seattle Times, "Egypt’s opposition calls for release of ex-diplomat," 27 Aug. 2018 Gaming hardware deals, meanwhile, are easier to predict. Jeff Dunn, Ars Technica, "Dealmaster: The Black Friday 2018 tech deals that might actually be worth buying," 18 Nov. 2018 Twitter’s daily user base, meanwhile, was up 9 percent over the same quarter a year ago. Kurt Wagner, Recode, "Twitter is now consistently profitable," 25 Oct. 2018 The shoes, meanwhile, came from much more high-fashion stock. Chloe Foussianes, Town & Country, "Meghan Markle Wears Back-to-Back Casual Outfits on the Royal Tour in New Zealand," 29 Oct. 2018 The Dodgers, meanwhile, can thank Buehler for keeping their bullpen relatively fresh despite the marathon game. Jared Diamond, WSJ, "Dodgers Beat Red Sox, Eventually, in Longest-Ever World Series Game," 27 Oct. 2018 Joe Jonas, meanwhile, also tweeted his love and support for Lovato Tuesday shortly after news broke about her apparent overdose. Katherine Lam, Fox News, "Demi Lovato’s ex Wilmer Valderrama is reportedly ‘shocked’ as ex Joe Jonas asks fans for prayers," 2 Oct. 2018 Uber’s data from 2015, meanwhile, says drivers brought in $23.69 per hour there. Rani Molla, Recode, "Half of U.S. Uber drivers make less than $10 an hour after vehicle expenses, according to a new study," 2 Oct. 2018

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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Statistics for meanwhile

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Time Traveler for meanwhile

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

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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, -ˌwīl\

Kids Definition of meanwhile

 (Entry 1 of 2)



Kids Definition of meanwhile (Entry 2 of 2)

2 : at the same time

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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

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