1. what is intended to be, or actually is, expressed or indicated; signification; import: the three meanings of a word.
  2. the end, purpose, or significance of something: What is the meaning of life? What is the meaning of this intrusion?
  3. Linguistics.
    1. the nonlinguistic cultural correlate, reference, or denotation of a linguistic form; expression.
    2. linguistic content (opposed to expression).
  1. intentioned (usually used in combination): She's a well-meaning person.
  2. full of significance; expressive: a meaning look.

Origin of meaning

1250–1300; Middle English (noun); see mean1, -ing1, -ing2
Related formsmean·ing·ly, adverbmean·ing·ness, nounsub·mean·ing, nounun·der·mean·ing, noun

Synonyms for meaning

1. tenor, gist, drift, trend. Meaning, purport, sense, significance denote that which is expressed or indicated by something. Meaning is the general word denoting that which is intended to be or actually is expressed or indicated: the meaning of a word or glance. Sense may be used to denote a particular meaning (among others) of a word or phrase: The word is frequently used in this sense. Sense may also be used loosely to refer to intelligible meaning: There's no sense in what he says. Significance refers particularly to a meaning that is implied rather than expressed: the significance of her glance; or to a meaning the importance of which may not be easy to perceive immediately: The real significance of his words was not grasped at the time. Purport is mainly limited to the meaning of a formal document, speech, important conversation, etc., and refers to the gist of something fairly complicated: the purport of your letter to the editor. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for meaningly

Historical Examples of meaningly

  • "There is danger for you in that land of Spaniards, if ever we get yonder," said Peter meaningly.

    Fair Margaret

    H. Rider Haggard

  • “A man does not go in the dark to look for a trail,” said Padre Andreas meaningly.

    The Treasure Trail

    Marah Ellis Ryan

  • “I wonder,” said Alice; “perhaps he has discovered–––” She broke off meaningly.

  • "You were more fastidious once, if my memory serves me aright," said he, meaningly.

    Roland Cashel

    Charles James Lever

  • "I've come to a man's estate since we met last," I said meaningly.


    Joseph Conrad and F.M. Hueffer

British Dictionary definitions for meaningly


  1. the sense or significance of a word, sentence, symbol, etc; import; semantic or lexical content
  2. the purpose underlying or intended by speech, action, etc
  3. the inner, symbolic, or true interpretation, value, or messagethe meaning of a dream
  4. valid content; efficacya law with little or no meaning
  5. philosophy
    1. the sense of an expression; its connotation
    2. the reference of an expression; its denotation. In recent philosophical writings meaning can be used in both the above sensesSee also sense (def. 12)
  1. expressive of some sense, intention, criticism, etca meaning look
See also well-meaning
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 meaningly



"sense, import, intent," c.1300, from mean (v.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper