In the Meantime – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Was a friend telling you a story and segued from it with “in the meantime…?” This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this expression.

Meaning

The meaning of the expression, “in the meantime,” is a way of telling people the results of events occurring simultaneously to other important events, usually in your life.

For example, you could be telling someone a story about what happened at work and use “in the meantime” to segue into another story that was going on at the same time as the original story. The transition between stories is seamless, and they usually have a relationship with one another.

Example Usage

“John and I were having a great time skiing the run. In the meantime, the kids were bundled up back in the cabin complaining about the cold. They didn’t enjoy their first snow experience.”

“I was at work trying to undo the damage from the hack. In the meantime, everyone else on the team was at home sleeping.”

“We were at the homeless shelter feeding people. In the meantime, these criminals were breaking into the church next door to steal the artifacts.”

“We were on our way to California on a Delta flight. In the meantime, Kim and Joe were driving to the west coast from Florida.”

“I hear what you’re saying. In the meantime, we should just sit back and wait till they show up.”

Origin

No one knows the origin of the phrase “in the meantime.” However, some language experts think the saying was in use as early as the 1400s. The expression “in the mean,” “meantime,” and “meanwhile” come from the meaning of a mathematical average, and some also think that it comes from a relationship to “Greenwich meantime.”

The original meaning of these words is to “take the middle or to branch off.” The word “intermediate” may also play a role in developing the expression “in the meantime.” Intermediate in time means the coming together or occurring between two points in time or the intervention of two events.

The origin of the mathematical use of “meaning” also comes from the source of the “middle meaning.” However, it expands into the meaning of average or moderate.

Phrases Similar to In the Meantime

  • While that was going on.
  • At the same time.
  • Simultaneously.

Phrases Opposite to In the Meantime

  • Last week.
  • The week ahead.
  • Right now.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • In the meantime.

Ways People May Say In the Meantime Incorrectly

Using the term to describe Greenwich meantime is the incorrect use of the expression. While Greenwich meantime (GMT) does influence the origin of the phrase, it is not suitable for use in the modern version of the term.

The phrase suits explaining that something else important in your life experience was occurring at the same time you were doing something else. Using the phrase to describe any other past or future life event is incorrect.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase In the Meantime

You can use the phrase “in the meantime” as a segue into another story to add to the conversation. For instance, if you’re telling your friends a story about your ski trip, you could use “in the meantime” to describe what was going on simultaneously back at home as burglars were robbing your house.

It’s a way of telling someone that another more or less important event was occurring at the same time while you were doing something else. That event could have a negative or positive outcome. For instance, your house could be getting robbed, or your fiancé could buy a winning lottery ticket.

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