- contemporary, contemporaneous1. Contemporary has two main meanings: (1) ‘living or occurring at the same time’, both as an adjective (often followed by with) and as a noun (often followed by of):
• Austen Layard, a contemporary of Wallace who had discovered the ancient city of Nineveh —L. Blair, 1988
• The finest novelists contemporary with him, particularly George Eliot and Hardy, are drawn to describe similar interiors for related, although slightly different, reasons —P. Tristam, 1989and (2) ‘existing or done at the present time’ (as in contemporary literature) and hence ‘up-to-date, modern’ (as in contemporary ideas / contemporary furnishings). The logic of this sense, which appears at first sight to be inconsistent with the first, is that it is elliptical for ‘contemporary with the present’. The risk of ambiguity is largely theoretical, although it might occur in a sentence such as music performed on contemporary instruments, where it is not clear whether contemporary refers to the time of the music or the time of the performance.2. Contemporaneous (17c) is an adjective restricted to the first meaning, and is available when all risk of misunderstanding needs to be eliminated. It is found surprisingly often, especially in historical contexts:
• Built in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, they are contemporaneous with many of the great Gothic cathedrals of Europe —S. Stewart, 1991
• Workers…experienced an absence of light and air that made conditions even in contemporaneous London and Paris seem favourable —S. Lash, 1990.
Modern English usage. 2014.