mean

1
[meen]

verb (used with object), meant, mean·ing.

verb (used without object), meant, mean·ing.

to be minded or disposed; have intentions: Beware, she means ill, despite her solicitous manner.

Nearby words

  1. mealworm,
  2. mealy,
  3. mealy bug,
  4. mealy-mouthed,
  5. mealybug,
  6. mean anomaly,
  7. mean business,
  8. mean calorie,
  9. mean cell hemoglobin,
  10. mean cell hemoglobin concentration

Idioms

    mean well, to have good intentions; try to be kind or helpful: Her constant queries about your health must be tiresome, but I'm sure she means well.

Origin of mean

1
before 900; Middle English menen, Old English mǣnan; cognate with German meinen, Dutch meenen

Can be confusedmean mien

Synonym study

1. See intend.

mean

2
[meen]

adjective, mean·er, mean·est.

offensive, selfish, or unaccommodating; nasty; malicious: a mean remark; He gets mean when he doesn't get his way.
small-minded or ignoble: mean motives.
penurious, stingy, or miserly: a person who is mean about money.
inferior in grade, quality, or character: no mean reward.
low in status, rank, or dignity: mean servitors.
of little importance or consequence: mean little details.
unimposing or shabby: a mean abode.
small, humiliated, or ashamed: You should feel mean for being so stingy.
Informal. in poor physical condition.
troublesome or vicious; bad-tempered: a mean old horse.
Slang. skillful or impressive: He blows a mean trumpet.

Origin of mean

2
before 900; Middle English mene, aphetic variant (see y-) of imene, Old English gemǣne; cognate with Dutch gemeen, German gemein common, Gothic gamains in common; cf. common

Synonym study

2. Mean, low, base, sordid, and vile all refer to ignoble characteristics worthy of dislike, contempt, or disgust. Mean suggests pettiness and small-mindedness: to take a mean advantage. Low suggests coarseness and vulgarity: low company. Base suggests selfish cowardice or moral depravity: base motives. Sordid suggests a wretched uncleanness, or sometimes an avariciousness without dignity or moral scruples: a sordid slum; sordid gain. Vile suggests disgusting foulness or repulsiveness: vile insinuation; a vile creature. 3. See stingy1.

mean

3
[meen]

noun

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.
means,
  1. available resources, especially money: They lived beyond their means.
  2. considerable financial resources; riches: a man of means.
something that is midway between two extremes; something intermediate: to seek a mean between cynicism and blind faith.
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.
Statistics. expected value. See mathematical expectation(def 2).
Logic. the middle term in a syllogism.

adjective

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.

Origin of mean

3
1300–50; Middle English mene < Middle French meen, variant of meien < Latin mediānus; see median

Can be confusedmean median

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for mean


British Dictionary definitions for mean

mean

1

verb means, meaning or meant (mainly tr)

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

Word Origin for mean

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

usage

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)

adjective

mainly British miserly, ungenerous, or petty
humble, obscure, or lowlyhe rose from mean origins to high office
despicable, ignoble, or callousa mean action
poor or shabbymean clothing; a mean abode
informal, mainly US and Canadian bad-tempered; vicious
informal ashamedhe felt mean about not letting the children go to the zoo
informal, mainly US unwell; in low spirits
slang excellent; skilfulhe plays a mean trombone
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

noun

the middle point, state, or course between limits or extremes
moderation
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
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

adjective

intermediate or medium in size, quantity, etc
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 mean
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for mean

mean

[mēn]

n.

Something having a position, quality, or condition midway between extremes; a medium.
A number that typifies a set of numbers, such as a geometric mean or an arithmetic mean.
The average value of a set of numbers.

adj.

Occupying a middle or intermediate position between two extremes.
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.

Science definitions for mean

mean

[mēn]

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.
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.

Culture definitions for mean

mean

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 mean

mean

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.