mean

1 of 4

verb

meant ˈment How to pronounce mean (audio) ; meaning ˈmē-niŋ How to pronounce mean (audio)

transitive verb

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 GodBobbie Ann Mason
b
: to design for or destine to a specified purpose or future
I was meant to teach
2
: to serve or intend to convey, show, or indicate : signify
a red sky means rain
3
: to have importance to the degree of
health means everything
4
: to direct to a particular individual
His criticism was meant for all of us.

intransitive verb

: to have an intended purpose
he means well
meaner noun

mean

2 of 4

adjective (1)

1
: lacking distinction or eminence : humble
2
: lacking in mental discrimination : dull
3
a
: of poor, shabby, or 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
: lacking dignity or honor : base
a mean motive
5
a
: penurious, stingy
He's very mean with his money.
b
: characterized by petty selfishness or malice
a mean surly man
c
: causing trouble or bother : vexatious
a mean soil to work
d
: excellent, effective
plays a mean trumpet
a lean, mean athlete
6
: ashamed sense 1b
His ready cooperation made me feel mean for what I had said.
meanness noun

mean

3 of 4

adjective (2)

1
: occupying a middle position : intermediate in space, order, time, kind, or degree
2
: occupying a position about midway between extremes
especially : being the mean of a set of values : average
the mean temperature
3
: serving as a means : intermediary

mean

4 of 4

noun

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: such as
c
: either of the middle two terms of a proportion
2
means plural in form but singular or plural in construction : something useful or helpful to a desired end
3
means plural : resources available for disposal
especially : material resources affording a secure life
Phrases
mean business
: to be in earnest
by all means
: most assuredly : certainly
by means of
: through the use of
by no means
: in no way : not at all
Choose the Right Synonym for mean

Adjective (1)

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 (2)

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

Examples of mean in a Sentence

Verb 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
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
Home meant my father, with kind eyes, songs, and tense recitations for my brother and myself. Gwendolyn Brooks, Booklist, 15 Oct. 1993
The word meant one thing in Shakespeare's day, but it means something else now. Red means “stop” and green means “go.” Can you tell me what my dream means? What was meant by the poet? Don't distort what she meant by taking her words out of context. He's very ambitious, and I mean that as a compliment. It's a very easy question. Anyone, and I mean anyone, should be able to answer it. She's not getting any thinner, if you know what I mean. She says she didn't mean anything by what she did. I don't trust him. He means no good. Adjective (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
… 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
… 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
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
Noun Take all these temperatures and calculate their mean. trying to find a golden mean between doing too little and doing too much
Recent Examples on the Web
Verb
The pandemic’s upheaval has left vacant commercial real estate in its wake, but that doesn’t mean the need for affordable housing has declined, Chapman said. Danny Nguyen, Washington Post, 10 Apr. 2024 But this doesn’t mean a producer will always be able to input footage into an AI model without consent. Dan Stone, The Hollywood Reporter, 10 Apr. 2024 Advertisement West’s choice means at least three women from California are running for vice president — Abdullah, Vice President Kamala Harris and Nicole Shanahan, selected by independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Benjamin Oreskes, Los Angeles Times, 10 Apr. 2024 As the weather has gotten warmer in Ukraine and the heating season is over, the country is still not generating enough power to meet the overall demand from consumers, meaning there are rolling power cuts for millions of people in several regions. Tom Soufi Burridge, ABC News, 10 Apr. 2024 But this slipperiness also means that quite a lot of the bands now producing Khruangbin-vibesy music are entirely forgettable. Ryan Bradley MacLeod Andrews Emma Kehlbeck Quinton Kamara, New York Times, 10 Apr. 2024 This means that the interests of the client are the top priority, and no other interests of any other parties (including those of the CFP), can be put before them. Jordan Priddy, Kansas City Star, 10 Apr. 2024 Skipping a year means that the shows will be refreshed, and the programming for the convention won’t be just be a repeat of 2023’s BravoCon. Kate Aurthur, Variety, 10 Apr. 2024 The primary difference is that Sarcophagus is built atop crypto technology, meaning the contents of users’ documents are never visible to a third party and that the availability of their payloads does not depend on the service provider remaining in operation. Joel Khalili, WIRED, 10 Apr. 2024
Adjective
In Glenview, the median household income is over $250,000, while its mean household income of $508,303, which is the highest in Kentucky. Andrew Depietro, Forbes, 28 Mar. 2024 But some Parisians are concerned that regeneration may, in fact, mean gentrification. Alexander Smith, NBC News, 26 Mar. 2024 Creating delicious yet unpretentious restaurants is their secret sauce (well, that and a mean marinara), and San Sabino is no exception. Vogue, 25 Mar. 2024 Price, a mean string player in his own right, is a 10-year veteran of the Turtle Island String Quartet and the music director of the Space Orchestra and a composer with a long list of contributions to various Bay Area ensembles. Randy McMullen, The Mercury News, 13 Mar. 2024 Laura isn’t a mean girl with prom-queen dreams; that’s the outdated model. Owen Gleiberman, Variety, 10 Mar. 2024 Amid the mean mugs and the constant humiliation, the housewife plots her way inside Palm Beach’s inner circle on a quest to host the end-of-season Beach Ball, Norma’s annual extravaganza. Aramide Tinubu, Variety, 18 Mar. 2024 The uptick in population coincided with an increase in the mean sea surface temperature in Mobile Bay from 22.3 degrees Celsius -- 72.1 degrees Fahrenheit -- in 2001 to 23 degrees Celsius -- 73.4 degrees Fahrenheit -- in 2020, according to the paper. Julia Jacobo, ABC News, 14 Mar. 2024 The median home value by county is a less biased statistic than the mean or average price. USA TODAY, 13 Mar. 2024
Noun
Some of their money is acquired through questionable means—from exploitative business practices, or dodging taxes, or outright theft. Christine Emba, The Atlantic, 1 Apr. 2024 Young and the tournament's late co-founder Harald Schmied co-founded the competition in 2001 after attending a conference for the International Network of Street Papers — street papers being a common means of employment for people experiencing homelessness or poverty. Tommy McArdle, Peoplemag, 29 Mar. 2024 Billed as a natural means of lowering cholesterol, the products recalled by Kobayashi Pharmaceutical Co. contain benikoji, an ingredient derived from a species of mold. Kate Gibson, CBS News, 29 Mar. 2024 Warning: Contains mild spoilers about locations and means of entry. Fritz Hahn, Washington Post, 28 Mar. 2024 In the course of the monitoring, which has involved electronic intercepts, human informants and other means, American operatives picked up fairly specific information about plotting in Moscow, officials said. Michael Schwirtz, New York Times, 28 Mar. 2024 Listing agents also can still make compensation offers by any means outside the MLS — such as on their own websites. Jeff Collins, Orange County Register, 26 Mar. 2024 Camping remains an accessible and enriching means of exploration, and this year's winners represent the incredible variety of camping experiences available across North America. Stacey Leasca, Travel + Leisure, 19 Mar. 2024 In the early days of Pawhuska, the bridge, constructed in 1926, was the only means by which travelers could cross Bird Creek to get into town. Southern Living Editors, Southern Living, 19 Mar. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'mean.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Verb

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

Adjective (1)

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

Adjective (2) and Noun

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

First Known Use

Verb

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

Adjective (1)

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Adjective (2)

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a(1)

Time Traveler
The first known use of mean was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near mean

Cite this Entry

“Mean.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mean. Accessed 13 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition

mean

1 of 4 adjective
1
: lacking distinction or prominence : humble
2
: of poor, shabby, or inferior quality or status
lives in mean surroundings
3
: worthy of little regard : inferior
often used in negative constructions as a term of praise
a person of no mean ability
4
: deliberately unkind
5
6
: spiteful, malicious
a mean remark
7
: causing trouble or bother
a mean horse
8
: excellent
plays a mean trumpet
meanly adverb
meanness
ˈmēn-nəs
noun

mean

2 of 4 verb
meant
ˈment
; meaning
ˈmē-niŋ
1
a
: to have as a purpose : intend
I mean to go
b
: to intend for a particular purpose or use
a book meant for children
2
: to serve to communicate, show, or indicate : signify
what do these words mean
those clouds mean rain
3
: to be important to a specified degree
health means everything to us

mean

3 of 4 adjective
1
: holding a middle position : intermediate
2
a
: lying about midway between extremes
b
: being the mean of a set of values : average
mean temperature

mean

4 of 4 noun
1
: a middle point between extremes
2
a
: a value that represents a range of values
especially : arithmetic mean
b
: either of the middle two terms of a proportion
3
plural : something by which a desired result is achieved or furthered
means of production
use any means you can
4
plural : wealth sense 1
a person of means
Etymology

Adjective

Middle English mene, imene "held in common, inferior," from Old English gemǣne "held in common"

Verb

Old English mǣnan "to have in mind, intend"

Adjective

Middle English mene "being in a middle position," from early French meiene (same meaning), from Latin medianus "being in the middle" — related to median entry 1

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