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 God Bobbie 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

Example Sentences

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 See More

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 6 Dec. 2022.

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 business
: to be serious about

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
by all means
: without fail : certainly
by means of
: through the use of
by no means
: not at all : certainly not

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