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verb \ˈmēn\

Simple Definition of mean

  • : to have (a particular meaning)

  • : to want or intend to express (a particular idea or meaning)

  • : to have (something) in your mind as a purpose or goal

Full Definition of mean

meant play \ˈment\ mean·ing play \ˈmē-niŋ\

  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 a :  to have in the mind as a purpose :  intend <she means to win> —sometimes used interjectionally with I, chiefly in informal speech for emphasis <he throws, I mean, hard> or to introduce a phrase restating the point of a preceding phrase <we try to answer what we can, but I mean we're not God — Bobbie Ann Mason> b :  to design for or destine to a specified purpose or future <I was meant to teach>

  3. 2 :  to serve or intend to convey, show, or indicate :  signify <a red sky means rain>

  4. 3 :  to have importance to the degree of <health means everything>

  5. 4 :  to direct to a particular individual

  6. intransitive verb
  7. :  to have an intended purpose <he means well>

mean·er play \ˈmē-nər\ noun
mean business
  1. :  to be in earnest

Examples of mean

  1. The season of backyard barbecues and lakeside cookouts is at hand, which in most parts of the country means an orgy of grilled steaks, hamburgers and hot dogs lasting until Labor Day and beyond. —R. W. Apple, Jr., New York Times, 5 June 2002

  2. Even the water in the cave was free from surface contamination … which meant that all the water now in Lechugilla percolated into the cave before the widespread nuclear bomb testing of the 1940s … —Jon Krakauer, Air & Space, October/November 1995

  3. Home meant my father, with kind eyes, songs, and tense recitations for my brother and myself. —Gwendolyn Brooks, Booklist, 15 Oct. 1993

  4. The word meant one thing in Shakespeare's day, but it means something else now.

  5. Red means stop and green means go.

  6. Can you tell me what my dream means?

  7. What was meant by the poet?

  8. Don't distort what she meant by taking her words out of context.

  9. He's very ambitious, and I mean that as a compliment.

  10. It's a very easy question. Anyone, and I mean anyone, should be able to answer it.

  11. She's not getting any thinner, if you know what I mean.

  12. She says she didn't mean anything by what she did.

  13. I don't trust him. He means no good.

Origin of mean

Middle English menen, from Old English mǣnan; akin to Old High German meinen to have in mind, Old Church Slavic měniti to mention

First Known Use: before 12th century



adjective \ˈmēn\

Definition of mean

  1. 1 :  lacking distinction or eminence :  humble

  2. 2 :  lacking in mental discrimination :  dull

  3. 3 a :  of poor shabby inferior quality or status <mean city streets> b :  worthy of little regard :  contemptible —often used in negative constructions as a term of praise <no mean feat>

  4. 4 :  lacking dignity or honor :  base

  5. 5 a :  penurious, stingy b :  characterized by petty selfishness or malice c :  causing trouble or bother :  vexatious d :  excellent, effective <plays a mean trumpet> <a lean, mean athlete>

  6. 6 :  ashamed 1b

mean·ness play \ˈmēn-nəs\ noun

Examples of mean

  1. For thirty years he had been a ruthless litigator, the meanest, nastiest, and without a doubt one of the most effective courtroom brawlers in Chicago. —John Grisham, The Chamber, 1995

  2. … the streets of Spanish Harlem are meaner than when he left them, and they're pulling him back in. —Peter Travers, Rolling Stone, 9 Dec. 1993

  3. … what you discover is the one with the tail was old mean landlord Mr. prosperous Prospero who wielded without thought of God or man the merry old cat-o'-nine-tails … —Darryl Pinckney, Times Literary Supplement, 23 Aug. 1991

  4. Creighton Abrams was a tanker, according to George Patton the meanest tanker the Germans had faced in the whole U.S. Third Army, and he had a temper that matched the fearsome machines he loved. —Neil Sheehan, A Bright Shining Lie, 1988

Origin of mean

Middle English mene, from imene common, shared, from Old English gemǣne; akin to Old High German gimeini common, Latin communis common, munus service, gift, Sanskrit mayate he exchanges

First Known Use: 14th century

Synonym Discussion of mean

mean, ignoble, abject, sordid mean being below the normal standards of human decency and dignity. mean suggests small-mindedness, ill temper, or cupidity <mean and petty satire>. ignoble suggests a loss or lack of some essential high quality of mind or spirit <an ignoble scramble after material possessions>. abject may imply degradation, debasement, or servility <abject poverty>. sordid is stronger than all of these in stressing physical or spiritual degradation and abjectness <a sordid story of murder and revenge>.



adjective \ˈmēn\

Definition of mean

  1. 1 :  occupying a middle position :  intermediate in space, order, time, kind, or degree

  2. 2 :  occupying a position about midway between extremes; especially :  being the mean (see 4mean) of a set of values :  average <the mean temperature>

  3. 3 :  serving as a means :  intermediary

Origin of mean

Middle English mene, from Anglo-French mene, meiene, from Latin medianus — more at median

First Known Use: 14th century

Synonym Discussion of mean

average, mean, median, norm mean something that represents a middle point. average is the quotient obtained by dividing the sum total of a set of figures by the number of figures <scored an average of 85 on tests>. mean may be the simple average or it may represent value midway between two extremes <a high of 70° and a low of 50° give a mean of 60°>. median applies to the value that represents the point at which there are as many instances above as there are below <average of a group of persons earning 3, 4, 5, 8, and 10 dollars an hour is 6 dollars, whereas the median is 5 dollars>. norm means the average of performance of a significantly large group, class, or grade <scores about the norm for fifth grade arithmetic>.



noun \ˈmēn\

Simple Definition of mean

  • : a middle point between two things

Full Definition of mean

  1. 1 a (1) :  something intervening or intermediate (2) :  a middle point between extremes b :  a value that lies within a range of values and is computed according to a prescribed law: as (1) :  arithmetic mean (2) :  expected value c :  either of the middle two terms of a proportion

  2. 2 plural but sing or plural in constr :  something useful or helpful to a desired end

  3. 3 plural :  resources available for disposal; especially :  material resources affording a secure life

by all means
  1. :  most assuredly :  certainly

by means of
  1. :  through the use of

by no means
  1. :  in no way :  not at all

Examples of mean

  1. Take all these temperatures and calculate their mean.

  2. trying to find a golden mean between doing too little and doing too much

Origin of mean

(see 3mean)

First Known Use: 14th century

Seen and Heard

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February 8, 2016

to clear from accusation or blame

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