See more synonyms for mean on
  1. Usually means. (used with a singular or plural verb) an agency, instrument, or method used to attain an end: The telephone is a means of communication. There are several means of solving the problem.
  2. means,
    1. available resources, especially money: They lived beyond their means.
    2. considerable financial resources; riches: a man of means.
  3. something that is midway between two extremes; something intermediate: to seek a mean between cynicism and blind faith.
  4. Mathematics.
    1. a quantity having a value intermediate between the values of other quantities; an average, especially the arithmetic mean.
    2. either the second or third term in a proportion of four terms.
  5. Statistics. expected value. See mathematical expectation(def 2).
  6. Logic. the middle term in a syllogism.
  1. occupying a middle position or an intermediate place, as in kind, quality, degree, or time: a mean speed; a mean course; the mean annual rainfall.
  1. by all means,
    1. (in emphasis) certainly: Go, by all means.
    2. at any cost; without fail.
  2. by any means, in any way; at all: We were not surprised at the news by any means.
  3. by means of, with the help of; by the agency of; through: We crossed the stream by means of a log.
  4. by no means, in no way; not at all: The prize is by no means certain.

Origin of mean

1300–50; Middle English mene < Middle French meen, variant of meien < Latin mediānus; see median
Can be confusedmean median Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for by all means


verb means, meaning or meant (mainly tr)
  1. (may take a clause as object or an infinitive) to intend to convey or express
  2. (may take a clause as object or an infinitive) intendshe didn't mean to hurt it
  3. (may take a clause as object) to say or do in all seriousnessthe boss means what he says about strikes
  4. (often passive often foll by for) to destine or design (for a certain person or purpose)she was meant for greater things
  5. (may take a clause as object) to denote or connote; signify; representexamples help show exactly what a word means
  6. (may take a clause as object) to produce; causethe weather will mean long traffic delays
  7. (may take a clause as object) to foretell; portendthose dark clouds mean rain
  8. to have the importance ofmoney means nothing to him
  9. (intr) to have the intention of behaving or acting (esp in the phrases mean well or mean ill)
  10. mean business to be in earnest

Word Origin for mean

Old English mænan; compare Old Saxon mēnian to intend, Dutch meenen


In standard English, mean should not be followed by for when expressing intention: I didn't mean this to happen (not I didn't mean for this to happen)


  1. mainly British miserly, ungenerous, or petty
  2. humble, obscure, or lowlyhe rose from mean origins to high office
  3. despicable, ignoble, or callousa mean action
  4. poor or shabbymean clothing; a mean abode
  5. informal, mainly US and Canadian bad-tempered; vicious
  6. informal ashamedhe felt mean about not letting the children go to the zoo
  7. informal, mainly US unwell; in low spirits
  8. slang excellent; skilfulhe plays a mean trombone
  9. no mean
    1. of high qualityno mean performer
    2. difficultno mean feat
Derived Formsmeanly, adverbmeanness, noun

Word Origin for mean

C12: from Old English gemǣne common; related to Old High German gimeini, Latin communis common, at first with no pejorative sense


  1. the middle point, state, or course between limits or extremes
  2. moderation
  3. maths
    1. the second and third terms of a proportion, as b and c in a/b = c/d
    2. another name for average (def. 2) See also geometric mean
  4. statistics a statistic obtained by multiplying each possible value of a variable by its probability and then taking the sum or integral over the range of the variable
  1. intermediate or medium in size, quantity, etc
  2. occurring halfway between extremes or limits; average
See also means

Word Origin for mean

C14: via Anglo-Norman from Old French moien, from Late Latin mediānus median
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for by all means



"intend, have in mind," Old English mænan "to mean, intend, signify; tell, say; complain, lament," from West Germanic *mainijan (cf. Old Frisian mena "to signify," Old Saxon menian "to intend, signify, make known," Dutch menen, German meinen "think, suppose, be of the opinion"), from PIE *meino- "opinion, intent" (cf. Old Church Slavonic meniti "to think, have an opinion," Old Irish mian "wish, desire," Welsh mwyn "enjoyment"), perhaps from root *men- "think" (see mind (n.)). Conversational question you know what I mean? attested by 1834.



"low-quality," c.1200, "shared by all," from imene, from Old English gemæne "common, public, general, universal, shared by all," from Proto-Germanic *ga-mainiz "possessed jointly" (cf. Old Frisian mene, Old Saxon gimeni, Middle Low German gemeine, Middle Dutch gemene, Dutch gemeen, German gemein, Gothic gamains "common"), from PIE *ko-moin-i- "held in common," a compound adjective formed from collective prefix *ko- "together" (Proto-Germanic *ga-) + *moi-n-, suffixed form of PIE root *mei- "to change, exchange" (see mutable). Cf. second element in common (adj.), a word with a sense evolution parallel to that of this word.

Of things, "inferior, second-rate," from late 14c. (a secondary sense in Old English was "false, wicked"). Notion of "so-so, mediocre" led to confusion with mean (n.). Meaning "inferior in rank or status" (of persons) emerged early 14c.; that of "ordinary" from late 14c.; that of "stingy, nasty" first recorded 1660s; weaker sense of "disobliging, pettily offensive" is from 1839, originally American English slang. Inverted sense of "remarkably good" (i.e. plays a mean saxophone) first recorded c.1900, perhaps from phrase no mean _______ "not inferior" (1590s, also, "not average," reflecting further confusion with mean (n.)).



"that which is halfway between extremes," early 14c., from Old French meien "middle, means, intermediary," noun use of adjective from Latin medianus "of or that is in the middle" (see mean (adj.2)). Oldest sense is musical; mathematical sense is from c.1500. Some senes reflect confusion with mean (adj.1). This is the mean in by no means (late 15c.).



"calculate an arithemtical mean," 1882, from mean (n.).



"occupying a middle or intermediate place," mid-14c., from Anglo-French meines (plural), Old French meien, variant of moiien "mid-, medium, common, middle-class" (12c., Modern French moyen), from Late Latin medianus "of the middle," from Latin medius "in the middle" (see medial (adj.)). Meaning "intermediate in time" is from mid-15c. Mathematical sense is from late 14c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

by all means in Medicine


  1. Something having a position, quality, or condition midway between extremes; a medium.
  2. A number that typifies a set of numbers, such as a geometric mean or an arithmetic mean.
  3. The average value of a set of numbers.
  1. Occupying a middle or intermediate position between two extremes.
  2. Intermediate in size, extent, quality, time, or degree; medium.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

by all means in Science


  1. A number or quantity having a value that is intermediate between other numbers or quantities, especially an arithmetic mean or average. See more at arithmetic mean.
  2. Either the second or third term of a proportion of four terms. In the proportion 23 = 46, the means are 3 and 4. Compare extreme.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

by all means in Culture


An average in statistics. (See under “Physical Sciences and Mathematics.”)


In statistics, an average of a group of numbers or data points. With a group of numbers, the mean is obtained by adding them and dividing by the number of numbers in the group. Thus the mean of five, seven, and twelve is eight (twenty-four divided by three). (Compare median and mode.)

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with by all means

by all means


Also, by all manner of means. In every possible way, as in I plan to make use of him by all means. [Late 1400s]


Also, by all manner of means. Without fail, at any cost, as in Losing the contract is to be avoided by all means. [c. 1600]


Certainly, yes, as in Are you coming tonight?—By all means, I'll be there. [Late 1600s] Also see by any means; by no means.


In addition to the idioms beginning with mean

  • mean business
  • mean to

, also see under

  • means
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.