[ meen ]
See synonyms for: meanmeanermeanestmeaning on

verb (used with object),meant, mean·ing.
  1. to have in mind as one's purpose or intention: I meant to compliment you on your work.

  2. to intend for a particular purpose, destination, etc.: They were meant for each other.

  1. to intend to express or indicate: What do you mean by “liberal”?

  2. to have as its sense or signification; signify: The word “freedom” means many things to many people.

  3. to bring, cause, or produce as a result: This bonus means that we can take a trip to Florida.

  4. to have (certain intentions) toward a person: He didn't mean you any harm.

  5. to have the value of; assume the importance of: Money means everything to them. She means the world to him.

verb (used without object),meant, mean·ing.
  1. to be minded or disposed; have intentions: Beware, she means ill, despite her solicitous manner.

Idioms about mean

  1. 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

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

synonym study For mean

1. See intend.

Other words for mean

Words that may be confused with mean

Words Nearby mean

Other definitions for mean (2 of 3)

[ meen ]

adjective,mean·er, mean·est.
  1. offensive, selfish, or unaccommodating; nasty; malicious: a mean remark;He gets mean when he doesn't get his way.

  2. small-minded or ignoble: mean motives.

  1. penurious, stingy, or miserly: a person who is mean about money.

  2. inferior in grade, quality, or character: no mean reward.

  3. low in status, rank, or dignity: mean servitors.

  4. of little importance or consequence: mean little details.

  5. unimposing or shabby: a mean abode.

  6. small, humiliated, or ashamed: You should feel mean for being so stingy.

  7. Informal. in poor physical condition.

  8. troublesome or vicious; bad-tempered: a mean old horse.

  9. Slang. skillful or impressive: He blows a mean trumpet.

Origin of mean

First recorded before 900; Middle English mene, variant of imene, imeane “held or shared in common,” Old English gemǣne “common, general, mutual”; cognate with Dutch gemeen, German gemein “common,” Gothic gamains “in common”; see origin at y-,common

synonym study For mean

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.

Other words for mean

Other definitions for mean (3 of 3)

[ meen ]

  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,

    • available resources, especially money: They lived beyond their means.

    • considerable financial resources; riches: a man of means.

  1. something that is midway between two extremes; something intermediate: to seek a mean between cynicism and blind faith.

  2. Mathematics.

    • a quantity having a value intermediate between the values of other quantities; an average, especially the arithmetic mean.

    • either the second or third term in a proportion of four terms.

  3. Statistics. expected value. See mathematical expectation (def. 2).

  4. 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.

Origin of mean

First recorded in 1300–50; Middle English mene, meine, from Middle French meen, mean, variant of meien, from Latin mediānus “middle, in the middle”; see median

Words that may be confused with mean Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use mean in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for mean (1 of 3)


/ (miːn) /

verbmeans, 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) intend: she didn't mean to hurt it

  1. (may take a clause as object) to say or do in all seriousness: the boss means what he says about strikes

  2. (often passive often foll by for) to destine or design (for a certain person or purpose): she was meant for greater things

  3. (may take a clause as object) to denote or connote; signify; represent: examples help show exactly what a word means

  4. (may take a clause as object) to produce; cause: the weather will mean long traffic delays

  5. (may take a clause as object) to foretell; portend: those dark clouds mean rain

  6. to have the importance of: money means nothing to him

  7. (intr) to have the intention of behaving or acting (esp in the phrases mean well or mean ill)

  8. mean business to be in earnest

Origin of mean

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

usage For mean

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)

British Dictionary definitions for mean (2 of 3)


/ (miːn) /

  1. mainly British miserly, ungenerous, or petty

  2. humble, obscure, or lowly: he rose from mean origins to high office

  1. despicable, ignoble, or callous: a mean action

  2. poor or shabby: mean clothing; a mean abode

  3. informal, mainly US and Canadian bad-tempered; vicious

  4. informal ashamed: he felt mean about not letting the children go to the zoo

  5. informal, mainly US unwell; in low spirits

  6. slang excellent; skilful: he plays a mean trombone

  7. no mean

    • of high quality: no mean performer

    • difficult: no mean feat

Origin of mean

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

Derived forms of mean

  • meanly, adverb
  • meanness, noun

British Dictionary definitions for mean (3 of 3)


/ (miːn) /

  1. the middle point, state, or course between limits or extremes

  2. moderation

  1. maths

  2. 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

Origin of 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

Scientific definitions for mean


[ mēn ]

  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.

Cultural definitions for mean (1 of 2)


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.

Other Idioms and Phrases with 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.