About This Word

mean the world

or be the world to

[meen th uh wurld]

What does mean the world mean?

To mean the world to someone is an idiomatic way of saying they are exceptionally valued and important, often used for love.

See how it's used

mean the world

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Where does mean the world come from?

The expression mean the world came into use at least by the 20th century as an emphatic way for a speaker or writer to convey how much they care about someone or something—their feelings, as the phrase implies, are as big as the entire planet, as if encompassing everything.

A variant of this expression, to be all the world (to someone), appears in a 1916 story in Watson's Magazine where a desperate suitor tries to woo a young woman: "I love you, little maid. You are all the world to me!" The phrase all the world, for "the whole or earth or the universe," dates back to Old English.

You mean the world to me was popularized in part by singer Toni Braxton in her 1994 song, "You Mean the World To Me," where she sings about how much she cares about a lover but debates if she will keep him around. It reached #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was nominated for Best R&B Song at the 1995 Grammy Awards.

Who uses mean the world?

When used of people in casual speech and writing, mean the world communicates a heightened sense of admiration, gratitude, or affection for someone. Politicians may say their voters mean the world to them in a victory speech. A mother may tell her child she means the world to her.

The phrase is especially used in the construction you mean the world to me to express deep romantic love, commonly appearing in greeting cards.

People often use mean the world as a hyperbolic way to request and thank someone for a favor (e.g., Do you think you could file the report by noon? It would mean the world to me). The phrase is used of experiences and objects, too. It might mean the world to someone to visit Paris  or a rare car might mean the world to a gearhead.

For example

My friends believing in me means the world to me.

@lextakesthecity, April, 2018

I am so touched by all the birthday wishes! Thank you guys! It means the world to me!! 🤗

@TheBillyWest, April, 2018

I'm so lucky to be your mother. / We will always be with each other. / Because you mean the world to me.

Bayne Gibby, You Mean the World to Me, March, 2013

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