1. existing, occurring, or living at the same time; belonging to the same time: Newton's discovery of the calculus was contemporary with that of Leibniz.
  2. of about the same age or date: a Georgian table with a contemporary wig stand.
  3. of the present time; modern: a lecture on the contemporary novel.
noun, plural con·tem·po·rar·ies.
  1. a person belonging to the same time or period with another or others.
  2. a person of the same age as another.

Origin of contemporary

1625–35; < Late Latin contempor- (see contemporize) + -ary
Related formscon·tem·po·rar·i·ly, adverbcon·tem·po·rar·i·ness, nounnon·con·tem·po·rar·y, adjective, noun, plural non·con·tem·po·rar··con·tem·po·rar·y, adjectiveul·tra·con·tem·po·rar·y, adjective, noun, plural ul·tra·con·tem·po·rar·ies.un·con·tem·po·rar·y, adjective
Can be confusedcontemporary contemporaneous (see synonym study at the current entry)

Synonyms for contemporary

Synonym study

1. Contemporary, contemporaneous, coeval, coincident all mean happening or existing at the same time. Contemporary often refers to persons or their acts or achievements: Hemingway and Fitzgerald, though contemporary, shared few values. Contemporaneous is applied chiefly to events: the rise of industrialism, contemporaneous with the spread of steam power. Coeval refers either to very long periods of time—an era or an eon—or to remote or long ago times: coeval stars, shining for millenia with equal brilliance; coeval with the dawning of civilization. Coincident means occurring at the same time but without causal or other relationships: prohibition, coincident with the beginning of the 1920s. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for contemporariness


  1. belonging to the same age; living or occurring in the same period of time
  2. existing or occurring at the present time
  3. conforming to modern or current ideas in style, fashion, design, etc
  4. having approximately the same age as one another
noun plural -raries
  1. a person living at the same time or of approximately the same age as another
  2. something that is contemporary
  3. journalism a rival newspaper
Derived Formscontemporarily, adverbcontemporariness, noun

Word Origin for contemporary

C17: from Medieval Latin contemporārius, from Latin com- together + temporārius relating to time, from tempus time


Since contemporary can mean either of the same period or of the present period, it is best to avoid this word where ambiguity might arise, as in a production of Othello in contemporary dress. Modern dress or Elizabethan dress should be used in this example to avoid ambiguity
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for contemporariness



1630s, from Medieval Latin contemporarius, from Latin com- "with" (see com-) + temporarius "of time," from tempus "time" (see temporal (v.)). Meaning "modern, characteristic of the present" is from 1866.



"one who lives at the same time as another," 1630s, originally cotemporary, from co- + temporary; modified by influence of contemporary (adj.). Replacing native time-fellow (1570s).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper