The Meaning of Contemporary: What It Is and How To Use It

Have you ever wondered about the definition of contemporary? This article will provide you with all of the info you need on the word contemporary, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word contemporary mean?

According to Collins English Dictionary and the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, the word contemporary is an adjective that describes something that is modern or related to the present time. The noun contemporary refers to a person who is alive at the same time they are. Contemporary is five syllables – con-tem-po-rar-y, and the pronunciation of contemporary is kənˈtɛmprərɪ. One can also replace the suffix ary with ies or raries to make the plural noun contemporaries.

The word contemporary also refers to a historical period called contemporary history. This subset of the late modern period and early modern period is considered a subset of modern history by scholars. This time period covers roughly 1945 at the end of World War II – the present period. This is one of the major subsets of modern history following the early 19th century. This can encompass modern ideas, modern dress, modern style, current ideas or achievements and more.

Many different languages also contain words that mean contemporary. You may notice that many of these words look and sound like the word contemporary. These are called cognates, which are often formed when two words have the same language of origin or root. This list of translations of contemporary is provided by Word Sense.

  •  Bulgarian: съвременен‎ (sǎvreménen), модерен‎ (modéren)
  •  Hungarian: kortárs‎
  •  Swedish: nutida‎
  •  Georgian: თანამედროვე‎
  •  Portuguese: contemporâneo‎ (masc.), contemporânea‎ (fem.), tmoderno (masc.), moderna‎ (fem.)
  •  Catalan: contemporani‎
  •  Russian: совреме́нный‎
  •  Italian: contemporaneo‎
  •  Slovene: sodoben‎
  •  Albanian: bashkëkohor modern
  •  Scottish Gaelic: co-aimsireil‎
  •  Hebrew: עכשווי‎ (masc.), בֶּן זְמַנֵּנוּ‎
  •  Persian: نوین‎ (novin)
  •  German: zeitgenössisch‎, modern‎
  •  Spanish: contemporáneo‎, contemporario‎
  •  Japanese: 現代‎, 近代‎, モダン‎
  •  Czech: současný‎ (masc.)
  •  Tagalog: kasalukuyan‎, kapanahon‎
  •  Mandarin: 現代‎, 现代‎, 摩登‎ (módēng), 近代‎
  •  Macedonian: современ‎ (sóvremen)
  •  Korean: 현대‎
  •  Irish: nua-aimseartha‎
  •  Arabic: عَصْرِيّّ‎, حَدِيث‎, مُعَاصِر‎
  •  Danish: moderne‎, nutids-‎
  •  Polish: współczesny‎ (masc.)
  •  French: contemporain‎
  •  Dutch: hedendaags‎, eigentijds‎
  •  Turkish: çağdaş‎, modern‎, çağcıl‎
  •  Maori: onāianei‎

What is the origin of the word contemporary?

According to Etymonline, the word contemporary has been used since the early c17 as an adjective and noun. This comes from the Medieval Latin contemporārius and Medieval Latin contemporarius, from the Latin con and the Latin temporarius meaning of time. This comes from the Latin tempus, meaning time. In 18c, it was commonly written as “cotemporary.” Contemporary times and contemporary style  have been observed since the 1940s.

How can the word contemporary be used in a sentence?

The word contemporary can be used in many contests. Below are several examples of contemporary. 

The historian, Dr. Leibniz, gave a lecture at Princeton University on numerous different artefacts including a Georgian table with a contemporary wig stand, and a contemporary dress. The contemporary design surprised the students – it looked so similar to those of the present period, though the Elizabethan dress from Europe was made so long ago. It is interesting to see how contemporary trends make use of past fashion

Hemingway and Fitzgerald each wrote contemporary novels, though their values are starkly different, like how Mozart was contemporaneous to composer Salieri, the contemporary of Shakespeare in Cervantes, the early mammals and their saurian contemporaries, or Petrarch and Chaucer, two coeval stars of their time. 

The rise of industrialism and the spread of steam power in contemporary America has led to some great innovations as well as fatal mistakes. This dawning of civilization and capitalism has its drawbacks over long periods of time, like the role of computers or modern-day medicine. 

The contemporary production of Othello’s ambiguity provided great commentary on the conflicts of modern day, though it was written so long ago. 

The business owner was surprised that so many customers’ orders were of the same contemporary print. She could scroll her order page for days and only see the same product. She went through her packaging rituals with glee.

The market makers and trading company were surprised to see the interest rates fluctuate compared to the 20th century. 

What are synonyms and antonyms of the word contemporary?

There are many different words that have the same meaning as the word contemporary, called synonyms. These words can be used interchangeably with the word contemporary. These are useful to know if you are trying to work on expanding your vocabulary and avoiding repeating yourself. This list of synonyms is provided by Power Thesaurus.

  •  up-to-the-minute
  •  modern-day
  •  stylish
  •  topical
  •  synchronic
  •  fashionable
  •  coetaneous
  •  coinciding
  •  coexisting
  •  ultramodern
  •  simultaneous
  •  today
  •  latest
  •  all the rage
  •  peer
  •  extant
  •  coexistent
  •  up-to-date
  •  present-day
  •  coincident
  •  now
  •  new
  •  advanced
  •  existent
  •  fellow
  •  existing
  •  avant-garde
  •  present
  •  trendy
  •  state-of-the-art
  •  coeval
  •  synchronal
  •  contemporaneous
  •  present day
  •  mod
  •  modern
  •  up to date
  •  au courant
  •  newest
  •  newfangled
  •  synchronous
  •  in vogue
  •  modernistic
  •  accompanying
  •  chic
  •  concurrent
  •  recent
  •  fresh
  •  current
  •  modish

There are also many different words that have the opposite meaning as the word contemporary. These are called antonyms, which are another great way that you can improve your vocabulary. This list of antonyms for contemporary is also provided by Power Thesaurus

  •  traditional
  •  noncurrent
  •  archaic
  •  old as methuselah
  •  as old as the hills
  •  ancient
  •  early
  •  legacy
  •  frumpish
  •  unstylish
  •  old-fashioned
  •  passé
  •  old-fangled
  •  anachronistic
  •  old as the hills
  •  antiquated
  •  frumpy
  •  old
  •  antwacky
  •  dated
  •  outdated
  •  outmoded
  •  behind the curve
  •  past
  •  late
  •  old-world
  •  kaput
  •  obsolete
  •  old-time
  •  at different times
  •  jurassic
  •  vintage
  •  asynchronous
  •  unfashionable
  •  antediluvian
  •  absent
  •  noncontemporary
  •  age-old
  •  future
  •  old hat
  •  nonsimultaneous
  •  prehistoric
  •  former
  •  antique
  •  moth-eaten
  •  nonsynchronous
  •  disgusting
  •  bygone
  •  behind the times
  •  medieval

Overall, the word contemporary means of modern day or modern times. This word can be used as a noun or adjective.


  1. contemporary: meaning, origin, translation | Word Sense 
  2. Contemporary synonyms – 903 Words and Phrases for Contemporary | Power Thesaurus 
  3. Contemporary antonyms – 581 Opposites of Contemporary | Power Thesaurus 
  4. contemporary | Origin and meaning of contemporary | Online Etymology Dictionary 
  5. Contemporary definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary