What is the meaning of a contemporary world? Read our comprehensive guide to find out!
Whether you’ve come across the term ‘a contemporary world’ in your English class or heard it in general conversation, you may wonder what it means. The short answer? The phrase refers to the trends, ideas, and circumstances of the present time. There are many English words that have complex meanings.
But – of course – there’s more to it than that! Because the answer begs further questions. Like, “What’s the difference between modern times and contemporary times?” and “Is the idea of the contemporary world the same for you as it is for me?” These questions pose interesting ideas, so let’s dive in and discuss them!
- What Does “Contemporary” Mean?
- What’s the Difference Between The Modern World and The Contemporary World?
- Contemporary in Other Languages
- Contemporary World: Example Sentences
- Contemporary History
- The Zeitgeist
- Social Science and Understanding the Contemporary World
- Contemporary World Issues
- Contemporary Studies
- Contemporary: An Ever-Evolving Concept
What Does “Contemporary” Mean?
Looking at the definition of contemporary is a great place to begin. Contemporary has a few meanings. It can mean occurring or living at the same time. As well as, occurring in or belonging to the present. The term can also refer to something marked by the present period’s traits; an example of this usage is ‘contemporary American literature.’ The word can be used as either a noun or an adjective.
A quick look in the thesaurus reveals synonyms of ‘contemporary’ can include current, modern, present, present time, timely, and new. However, their accuracy as synonyms for contemporary will depend on the sentence and usage. For more information, check out our round-up of essays about the contemporary world!
What’s the Difference Between The Modern World and The Contemporary World?
Although these terms are often used interchangeably, some important yet subtle differences exist between ‘modern’ and ‘contemporary.’ For example, a person or object contemporaneous with another person or object may or may not be modern. The term ‘modern’ means relating to the present, or recent times, rather than the distant past.
In some cases, modern can have a different connotation, such as in architecture or the arts. Contemporary art signifies works created from around the 1970s to the present day, while modern art began in the 1860s and ended in approximately the 1970s.
The contemporary world can best be understood as the people, events, political landscape, etc., present during our lifetimes. Right now, this is also the modern world. We could also widen the net and regard the whole 21st century as being the contemporary world. You might also be interested in learning what is tautology.
Contemporary in Other Languages
Plenty of other languages worldwide contain terms that mean ‘contemporary.’ Among these are many examples of cognates, which show where there’s a direct etymological descendant. This means that these words share a common linguistic ancestry. Some examples of these ‘contemporary’ cognates include the Italian ‘contemporaneo’ and the Portuguese ‘contemporanea.’
The word ‘contemporary’ is thought to have originated around the seventeenth century as both an adjective and a noun, although in the eighteenth century, it was commonly spelled ‘cotemporary.’ It’s only been since the 1940s that phrases such as ‘contemporary times’ and ‘contemporary style’ have become widely used.
Contemporary World: Example Sentences
‘The internet has become an inherent part of the contemporary world’ is a neat usage example of this term. It means that in the world we live in today – the present – the internet is an intrinsic element of people’s lives.
As mentioned above, ‘contemporary’ may have a slightly different connotation in art. So, expressing a ‘love of contemporary world dance’ could mean an appreciation of current dance from all over the world or a preference for various global dance forms that developed around the mid-twentieth century. You might also be wondering, what is point of view?
In English, contemporary history forms a sub-category of modern world history. It refers to the period of time from roughly 1945 to the present day. The Cold War period of 1947 to 1991 dominates the socio-political landscape of what, in the west, we understand as contemporary history. The threat of nuclear war during this time cast a long shadow and only faded with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Following this, a general pattern of democratization spread across much of Europe.
Things were changing rapidly in the Arabic world, too, in this period. In the Middle East, contemporary history was dominated by the escalation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, an increasing Islamification in the region, the general decline of Arab nationalism, and the rise of petrol politics.
Arising from German philosophy from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the zeitgeist refers to the overarching ‘spirit of the age’ – it can be thought of as a force that shapes and represents the characteristics of a period of time.
The ideas of the present age are inherently connected with the idea of the zeitgeist, as are its beliefs and general feelings. In our contemporary world, the zeitgeist would likely revolve around social media concepts, how technology undermines or enhances our personal experience of the world around us, and the effects of the pandemic. These are just a few examples of a general ‘mood’ setting our contemporary world’s tone.
Social Science and Understanding the Contemporary World
The discipline of social science is all about studying people in terms of individuals, communities, and broader societies. When it comes to an understanding of the contemporary world, this is a vital study; social sciences can help us solve some of the modern problems unique to recent generations. These include developing ways to live more sustainably by altering how we interact with the built environment or finding new means to alleviate poverty in the developing world.
Tangible ways that social science is already helping with modern world issues, including recent research into equality, diversity, and inclusion and how essential services are delivered to displaced people during disasters such as the pandemic.
Contemporary World Issues
These are issues that are contemporary with the times we live in: in other words, things occurring now. According to the United Nations, major contemporary global issues today include climate change, poverty, decolonization, access to fresh water, and displaced persons.
Contemporary world issues also include the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, the steep rise in the global population, the threat to marine life due to ocean pollution, and ongoing conflicts in the Middle East.
Contemporary studies is a relatively new discipline deployed to analyze contemporary world trends. As a multi-disciplinary concept, it’s connected to politics, economics, culture, art, media, sociology, information technology, business, humanities, and social sciences.
Contemporary: An Ever-Evolving Concept
The very nature of the term ‘contemporary’ indicates its constantly shifting nature. Ideas of the contemporary world are necessarily in a continual state of flux, reflecting the changing global landscape and how, as individuals and societies, we engage with and respond to it. This is well summed up by the fact that the Latin word for temporary, temporarius, comes from the root term relating to time, period, or age.
Join over 15,000 writers today
Get a FREE book of writing prompts and learn how to make more money from your writing.