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

Definition of mean

 (Entry 1 of 4)

transitive verb

1a : 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
mean business
: to be in earnest
\ ˈmēn How to pronounce mean (audio) \

Definition of mean (Entry 2 of 4)

1 : lacking distinction or eminence : humble
2 : lacking in mental discrimination : dull
3a : 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
5a : 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.
\ ˈmēn How to pronounce mean (audio) \

Definition of mean (Entry 3 of 4)

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


\ ˈmēn How to pronounce mean (audio) \

Definition of mean (Entry 4 of 4)

1a(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
by all means
: most assuredly : certainly
by means of
: through the use of
by no means
: in no way : not at all

Other Words from mean


meaner \ ˈmē-​nər How to pronounce mean (audio) \ noun

Adjective (1)

meanness \ ˈmēn-​nəs How to pronounce mean (audio) \ noun

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 See More

First Known Use of mean


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


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

History and Etymology for mean


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

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Time Traveler for mean

Time Traveler

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

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Dictionary Entries Near mean



mean a thing

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Cite this Entry

“Mean.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Oct. 2022.

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More Definitions for mean


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

Kids Definition of mean

 (Entry 1 of 4)

1 : to represent or have as a definite explanation or idea What does this word mean?
2 : to be an indication of Those clouds mean rain.
3 : to have in mind as a purpose He meant to be funny.
4 : to intend for a particular use It's a book meant for children.
5 : to have importance to His visit meant a lot to me.


meaner; meanest

Kids Definition of mean (Entry 2 of 4)

1 : deliberately unkind That was a mean trick.
3 : low in quality, worth, or dignity That was no mean achievement.
4 : excellent He plays a mean guitar.

Other Words from mean

meanly adverb
meanness noun



Kids Definition of mean (Entry 3 of 4)

: occurring or being in a middle position : average The mean temperature for June was 70 degrees.



Kids Definition of mean (Entry 4 of 4)

1 : a middle point or something (as a place, time, number, or rate) that falls at or near a middle point : moderation
3 means plural : something that helps a person to get what he or she wants Use every means you can think of to find it.
4 means plural : wealth sense 1 A person of means doesn't worry about money.
by all means by any means
: in any way I was not a good student by any means.
by means of
: through the use of
by no means
: certainly not

More from Merriam-Webster on mean

Nglish: Translation of mean for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of mean for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about mean


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