from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • transitive v. To be used to convey; denote: "'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things'” ( Lewis Carroll).
  • transitive v. To act as a symbol of; signify or represent: In this poem, the budding flower means youth.
  • transitive v. To intend to convey or indicate: "No one means all he says, and yet very few say all they mean, for words are slippery and thought is viscous” ( Henry Adams).
  • transitive v. To have as a purpose or an intention; intend: I meant to go running this morning, but I overslept.
  • transitive v. To design, intend, or destine for a certain purpose or end: a building that was meant for storage; a student who was meant to be a scientist.
  • transitive v. To have as a consequence; bring about: Friction means heat.
  • transitive v. To have the importance or value of: The opinions of the critics meant nothing to him. She meant so much to me.
  • intransitive v. To have intentions of a specified kind; be disposed: They mean well but lack tact.
  • idiom mean business Informal To be in earnest.
  • adj. Selfish in a petty way; unkind.
  • adj. Cruel, spiteful, or malicious.
  • adj. Ignoble; base: a mean motive.
  • adj. Miserly; stingy.
  • adj. Low in quality or grade; inferior.
  • adj. Low in value or amount; paltry: paid no mean amount for the new shoes.
  • adj. Common or poor in appearance; shabby: "The rowhouses had been darkened by the rain and looked meaner and grimmer than ever” ( Anne Tyler).
  • adj. Low in social status; of humble origins.
  • adj. Humiliated or ashamed.
  • adj. In poor physical condition; sick or debilitated.
  • adj. Extremely unpleasant or disagreeable: The meanest storm in years.
  • adj. Informal Ill-tempered.
  • adj. Slang Hard to cope with; difficult or troublesome: He throws a mean fast ball.
  • adj. Slang Excellent; skillful: She plays a mean game of bridge.
  • n. Something having a position, quality, or condition midway between extremes; a medium.
  • n. Mathematics A number that typifies a set of numbers, such as a geometric mean or an arithmetic mean.
  • n. Mathematics The average value of a set of numbers.
  • n. Logic The middle term in a syllogism.
  • n. A method, a course of action, or an instrument by which an act can be accomplished or an end achieved.
  • n. Money, property, or other wealth: You ought to live within your means.
  • n. Great wealth: a woman of means.
  • adj. Occupying a middle or intermediate position between two extremes.
  • adj. Intermediate in size, extent, quality, time, or degree; medium.
  • idiom by all means Without fail; certainly.
  • idiom by any means In any way possible; to any extent: not by any means an easy opponent.
  • idiom by means of With the use of; owing to: They succeeded by means of patience and sacrifice.
  • idiom by no means In no sense; certainly not: This remark by no means should be taken lightly.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Common; general.
  • adj. Of a common or low origin, grade, or quality; common; humble.
  • adj. Low in quality or degree; inferior; poor; shabby.
  • adj. Without dignity of mind; destitute of honour; low-minded; spiritless; base.
  • adj. Niggardly; penurious; miserly; stingy.
  • adj. Of little value or account; low in worth or estimation; worthy of little or no regard; contemptible; despicable.
  • adj. Disobliging; pettily offensive or unaccommodating; small.
  • adj. Selfish; acting without consideration of others; unkind.
  • adj. Causing or intending to cause intentional harm; bearing ill will towards another; cruel; malicious.
  • adj. Powerful; fierce; harsh; damaging.
  • adj. Accomplished with great skill; deft; hard to compete with.
  • adj. Having the mean (see noun below) as its value.
  • adj. Middling in quality or excellence; moderately good, tolerable.
  • n. An intermediate step or intermediate steps.
  • v. To intend.
  • v. To convey meaning.
  • v. To complain, lament.
  • v. To pity; to comfort.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Destitute of distinction or eminence; common; low; vulgar; humble.
  • adj. Wanting dignity of mind; low-minded; base; destitute of honor; spiritless.
  • adj. Of little value or account; worthy of little or no regard; contemptible; despicable.
  • adj. Of poor quality.
  • adj. Penurious; stingy; close-fisted; illiberal.
  • adj. Occupying a middle position; middle; being about midway between extremes.
  • adj. Intermediate in excellence of any kind.
  • adj. Average; having an intermediate value between two extremes, or between the several successive values of a variable quantity during one cycle of variation
  • n. That which is mean, or intermediate, between two extremes of place, time, or number; the middle point or place; middle rate or degree; mediocrity; medium; absence of extremes or excess; moderation; measure.
  • n. A quantity having an intermediate value between several others, from which it is derived, and of which it expresses the resultant value; usually, unless otherwise specified, it is the simple average, formed by adding the quantities together and dividing by their number, which is called an arithmetical mean. A geometrical mean is the nth root of the product of the n quantities being averaged.
  • n. That through which, or by the help of which, an end is attained; something tending to an object desired; intermediate agency or measure; necessary condition or coagent; instrument.
  • n. Resources; property, revenue, or the like, considered as the condition of easy livelihood, or an instrumentality at command for effecting any purpose; disposable force or substance.
  • n. A part, whether alto or tenor, intermediate between the soprano and base; a middle part.
  • n. Meantime; meanwhile.
  • n. A mediator; a go-between.
  • intransitive v. To have a purpose or intention.
  • transitive v. To have in the mind, as a purpose, intention, etc.; to intend; to purpose; to design
  • transitive v. To signify; to indicate; to import; to denote.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To have in mind, view, or contemplation; intend; hence, to purpose or design.
  • To signify, or be intended to signify; indicate; import; denote.
  • To mention; tell; express.
  • To be minded or disposed; have intentions of some kind: usually joined with an adverb: as, he means well.
  • To have thought or ideas; have meaning.
  • To speak; talk.
  • Common; general.
  • Of a common or low origin, grade, quality, etc.; common; humble: as, a man of mean parentage; mean birth or origin; a mean abode.
  • Characteristic of or commonly pertaining to persons or things of low degree; common; inferior; poor; shabby: as, a mean appearance; mean dress.
  • Without dignity of mind; destitute of honor; low-minded; spiritless; base.
  • Niggardly; penurious; miserly; stingy.—
  • Of little value or account; low in worth or estimation; worthy of little or no regard; contemptible; despicable.
  • Disobliging; pettily offensive or unaccommodating; “small.” [Colloq.]
  • Abject. Low, etc. (see abject), paltry. See list under low.
  • Niggardly, Stingy, etc. (see penurious); sordid, selfish, close.
  • Occupying a middle position; midway between two extremes; median: now chiefly in certain technical uses. See phrases below.
  • Of medium size, extent, etc.; medium, middling, or moderate.
  • Coming between two events or points of time; intervening; intermediate: only in the phrase in the mean time or while.
  • Intermediate in a number of greater and less values, quantities, or amounts; forming an average between two or more terms of any kind; average; specifically, in mathematics, having a value which is a symmetrical function of other values of the same sort, such that, were all those other values to be equal, the value of the function would be equal to them all (compare II., 4): as, the mean breadth of a country; the mean distance of the earth from the sun.
  • n. The middle point, place, or state between two extremes; a middle path or course; a middle or intermediate kind, quality, rate, or degree; hence, the avoidance of extremes; absence of excess; moderation.
  • n. Intervening time; interval of time; interim; meantime.
  • n. In music: A middle voice or voice-part, as the tenor or alto.
  • n. The second of a set of viols; an alto.
  • n. Either the second or the third string of a viol, the former being the small mean, and the latter the great mean.
  • n. A quantity having a value intermediate between the values of other quantities; specifically, in mathematics, the average, or arithmetical mean, obtained by adding several quantities together and dividing the sum by their number.
  • n. In logic, the middle term in a syllogism.
  • n. A mediator; an intermediary; an agent; a broker; a go-between.
  • n. A subservient agency or instrumentality; that which confers ability or opportunity to attain an end: now rare in the singular, the plural form being used with both singular and plural meanings: as, means of travel or of subsistence; by this means you will succeed.
  • n. Causative agency or instrumentality; contributory aid or assistance; help; support: only in the plural form, in the phrase by means of, or by (or through) … means: as, we live by means of food; it came about through their means.
  • n. Specifically plural Disposable resources; elements of ability or opportunity; especially, pecuniary resources; possessions; revenue; income.
  • n. In any way; possibly; at all.
  • n. Synonyms Mean, Medium, Average, Mediocrity. Mean and medium represent the middle point or degree. Mean is much used in mathematics. (See arithmetical mean, geometrical mean, etc., above.) Mean is also much used in morals: as, in conduct we are to observe the golden mean; Aristotle held that each virtue was a mean between vice of defect and a vice of excess. Medium has this latter sense, but is used chiefly in matters of practical life: as, goods that are a medium between the best and the poorest; a color that is a medium between two others. In this sense medium is much used as an adjective: as, a medium grade, color, price. Means is the form of mean that corresponds to medium when it stands for that which. by being between others, is the agency for communication, etc. As mean and medium generally imply simply two extremes, but may imply several quantities of different amounts or degrees, so average may imply simply two extremes, but generally implies several quantities of different amounts or degrees: as, the average of 3, 5, 7, and 9 is 6. The latter word has similar figurative uses: as, the man's education was better than the average. Mediocrity is now used only in an unfavorable sense, implying blame or contempt: as, talents not above mediocrity—that is, very moderate.
  • n. Instrument, method, mode, way, expedient, resource, appliance.
  • To moan; lament; mourn; complain.
  • To bemoan; lament: used reflexively.
  • To demean; carry; conduct.
  • n. The abscissa of the center of gravity of the variates or of the frequency polygon. It is found by the formula where V is the magnitude of any class, f its frequency, and n the number of variates.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. characterized by malice
  • n. an average of n numbers computed by adding some function of the numbers and dividing by some function of n
  • adj. (used of sums of money) so small in amount as to deserve contempt
  • adj. excellent
  • v. destine or designate for a certain purpose
  • adj. having or showing an ignoble lack of honor or morality
  • adj. approximating the statistical norm or average or expected value
  • v. mean or intend to express or convey
  • v. have in mind as a purpose
  • v. denote or connote
  • v. have as a logical consequence
  • v. have a specified degree of importance
  • adj. (used of persons or behavior) characterized by or indicative of lack of generosity
  • adj. marked by poverty befitting a beggar
  • v. intend to refer to
  • adj. of no value or worth


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

Middle English menen, from Old English mǣnan, to tell of.
Middle English, from Old English gemǣne, common.
Middle English mene, middle, from Old French meien, from Latin mediānus, from medius.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English menen, from Old English mǣnan ("to mean, signify, consider"), from Proto-Germanic *mainijanan (“to mean, think”), from Proto-Indo-European *mein- (“to think”). Cognate with West Frisian miene ("to deem, think"), Dutch menen ("to believe, think, mean"), German meinen ("to think, mean, believe"). Related to mind and German Minne ("love").

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English mene, imene, from Old English mǣne, ġemǣne ("common, public, general, universal"), from Proto-Germanic *gamainiz (“common”), from Proto-Indo-European *(e)meyǝ- (“to change, exchange, share”). Cognate with West Frisian mien ("general, universal"), Dutch gemeen ("common, mean"), German gemein ("common, mean, nasty"), Gothic 𐌲𐌰𐌼𐌰𐌹𐌽𐍃 (gamains, "common, unclean"), Latin commūnis ("shared, common, general") (Old Latin comoinem).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English meene, from Old French meien (French moyen), Late Latin medianus ("that is in the middle, middle"), from medius ("middle"). Cognate with mid.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English menen, from Old English mǣnan ("to complain about, lament, mourn, grieve"), from Proto-Germanic *mainijanan (“to be outraged, suffer harm”), Proto-Germanic *mainan (“deceit, falsehood, shame, sin, crime, perjury”), from Proto-Indo-European *(e)meyə-, *mei- (“to change”). Related to Old English mān ("wickedness, crime, sin, perjury"), Dutch meineed ("perjury"), German Meineid ("perjury"), Danish men ("injury"); see moan.



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  • too many definitions of this word. ugh.

    January 7, 2016

  • Something unmeant occurred when the Wiktionary definition was parsed (and number eight is clearly a bug here or a bad edit there), but it comes off vaguely narrative and poetic.

    September 30, 2011