con·​tem·​po·​rary | \ kən-ˈtem-pə-ˌrer-ē How to pronounce contemporary (audio) , -ˌre-rē \

Essential Meaning of contemporary

1 : happening or beginning now or in recent times contemporary [=modern] jazz/poetry/art/furniture The story is old, but it has importance to contemporary [=current] audiences.
2 : existing or happening in the same time period : from the same time period The book is based on contemporary accounts of the war. [=accounts of the war that were written when the war was happening]

Full Definition of contemporary

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : marked by characteristics of the present period : modern, current contemporary American literature contemporary standards
2 : happening, existing, living, or coming into being during the same period of time The book is based on contemporary accounts of the war.


plural contemporaries

Definition of contemporary (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : one that is contemporary with another Petrarch and Chaucer were contemporaries.
2 : one of the same or nearly the same age as another

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from contemporary


contemporarily \ kən-​ˌtem-​pə-​ˈrer-​ə-​lē How to pronounce contemporary (audio) \ adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for contemporary


contemporary, contemporaneous, coeval, synchronous, simultaneous, coincident mean existing or occurring at the same time. contemporary is likely to apply to people and what relates to them. Abraham Lincoln was contemporary with Charles Darwin contemporaneous is more often applied to events than to people. contemporaneous accounts of the kidnapping coeval refers usually to periods, ages, eras, eons. two stars thought to be coeval synchronous implies exact correspondence in time and especially in periodic intervals. synchronous timepieces simultaneous implies correspondence in a moment of time. the two shots were simultaneous coincident is applied to events and may be used in order to avoid implication of causal relationship. the end of World War II was coincident with a great vintage year

Did you know?

Contemporary can be confusing because of its slightly different meanings. In everyday use, it generally means simply "modern" or "new". But before the 20th century it instead referred only to things from the same era as certain other things; so, for instance, Jesus was contemporary with the Roman emperors Augustus and Tiberius, and Muhammad was contemporary with Pope Gregory the Great. And contemporary is also a noun: thus, Jane Austen's contemporaries included Coleridge and Wordsworth, and your own contemporaries were born around the same year that you were.

Examples of contemporary in a Sentence

Adjective the absurd notion that early cave dwellers were contemporary with the dinosaurs a magazine devoted to contemporary fashions Noun He was a contemporary of George Washington. She is politically very different from most of her contemporaries.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective If an insufficient patriotism is one of the ills of contemporary America, then a national divorce would prescribe arsenic as a cure. Rich Lowry, National Review, 8 Oct. 2021 Nicki Nicole was one of the first contemporary Argentinian artists to gain mainstream TV exposure in the United States with an April appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Billboard Staff, Billboard, 7 Oct. 2021 International contemporary artists question what a map has been, is, and can be through visual, multimedia, installation and sound works. Anchorage Daily News, 7 Oct. 2021 Officially opened in 2007 by local nonprofit Casa Familiar, The FRONT has since become not only a gallery to see the work of contemporary artists working in the San Diego/Tijuana region, but one that has served as a cultural space for the community. Seth Combs, San Diego Union-Tribune, 3 Oct. 2021 The show’s depiction of contemporary America as relentlessly banal and hollow is plainly at the core of the current interest in the show, which coincides with an era of crisis across just about every major institution in American life. New York Times, 29 Sep. 2021 However, in the last decade, Barrett’s music has found a second life through sampling, mixing and covers by notable contemporary artists such as Kanye West, DJ Khaled, The Knocks and Leon Bridges. Britt Julious,, 24 Sep. 2021 In response, the Field is paring the displays down from more than 1,600 objects to just 250, and adding new works by contemporary artists. Rachel Cohen, Travel + Leisure, 19 Sep. 2021 The emotional range expressed between those two films is remarkable, as is the range of ideas about Black survival and social mobility in contemporary America. Los Angeles Times, 5 Sep. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Rod Laver has as much tennis sneaker cache as anyone in the game, even Stan Smith, his contemporary. Tim Newcomb, Forbes, 21 Sep. 2021 Matt Blank, a contemporary of Sapan’s who headed Showtime for 20 years, has been tapped as interim CEO while AMC Networks conducts a search for a new CEO. Brian Steinberg, Variety, 24 Aug. 2021 Although a contemporary of Schubert, Weber (1786-1826) in his Fourth Sonata anticipates Liszt’s dramatic and emotional extremes. Scott Cantrell, Dallas News, 23 June 2021 Like his contemporary, Pittsburgh right fielder Roberto Clemente, Kaline is remembered nearly as much for his defense as for his offense — perhaps just as much. Mick Mccabe, Detroit Free Press, 5 Aug. 2021 McCambridge had been artist-in-residence the year before and was a contemporary of Garland's, the university said. Susannah Cullinane, CNN, 11 July 2021 At 42, his contemporary — no longer living the dunktacular legend of Vinsanity from his heyday on the Nets and Raptors — was on a final season’s lap around the league with the Hawks, and the OGs locked fists. Matt Sullivan, Vulture, 29 June 2021 Tying in mico-florals and couture silhouettes that reflect the mid-century work of Antonio Castillo, a contemporary of Balenciaga and Dior to create a 90s retro but modern collection. Allyson Portee, Forbes, 28 June 2021 The project also had its start with an idea borrowed (if not filched) from a contemporary. Willard Spiegelman, WSJ, 18 June 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'contemporary.' 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 contemporary


1614, in the meaning defined at sense 2


1614, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for contemporary


probably borrowed from New Latin contemporārius "existing at the same period of time," from Latin con- con- + tempor-, tempus "time" + -ārius -ary entry 2 — more at tempo

Note: The suffixation may be modeled on Latin temporārius; see temporary entry 1.


derivative of contemporary entry 1, or from nominal use of its probable source, New Latin contemporārius

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More About contemporary

Time Traveler for contemporary

Time Traveler

The first known use of contemporary was in 1614

See more words from the same year

Dictionary Entries Near contemporary




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for contemporary

Last Updated

15 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Contemporary.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Oct. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon
Seen & Heard
People are talking about

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for contemporary


con·​tem·​po·​rary | \ kən-ˈtem-pə-ˌrer-ē How to pronounce contemporary (audio) \

Kids Definition of contemporary

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : living or occurring at the same period of time Mark Twain and Jack London were contemporary writers.
2 : modern sense 1 contemporary musicians


plural contemporaries

Kids Definition of contemporary (Entry 2 of 2)

: a person who lives at the same time or is about the same age as another Mark Twain and Jack London were contemporaries.

More from Merriam-Webster on contemporary

Nglish: Translation of contemporary for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of contemporary for Arabic Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Spelling Words Quiz

  • alphabet pasta spelling help
  • Which is the correct spelling?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something 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!