Meaning of “mean” in the English Dictionary

"mean" in British English

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meanverb

uk /miːn/ us /miːn/ meant, meant

mean verb (EXPRESS)

A2 [ T ] to express or represent something such as an idea, thought, or fact:

What does this word mean?
[ + that ] These figures mean that almost six percent of the working population is unemployed.
What do you mean by that remark?
She's kind of strange though. Do you know what I mean?
"They all showed up." "You mean the entire family?"

[ T ] used to add emphasis to what you are saying:

I want you home by midnight. And I mean midnight.
Give it back now! I mean it.

More examples

  • When he said three o'clock, I thought he meant in the afternoon.
  • Charges are made on a sliding scale, which means that the amount you must pay increases with the level of your income.
  • If you don't know what the word means, look it up in a dictionary.
  • You should take it as a compliment when I fall asleep in your company - it means I'm relaxed.
  • A continuous white line in the middle of the road means no overtaking.

mean verb (HAVE RESULT)

B1 [ T ] to have a particular result:

Lower costs mean lower prices.
[ + that ] Advances in electronics mean that the technology is already available.
[ + -ing verb ] If we want to catch the 7.30 train, that will mean leaving the house at 6.00.

More examples

  • High acidity levels in the water mean that the fish are not so large.
  • Shortages mean that even staples like bread are difficult to find.
  • In a way I'd prefer it if they didn't come, because it would mean extra work.
  • Let's say that the journey takes three hours, that means you'll arrive at two o'clock.
  • The irregularity of English spelling means that it is easy to make mistakes.

mean verb (INTEND)

B1 [ I or T ] to intend:

I'm sorry if I offended you - I didn't mean any harm.
The books with large print are meant for partially sighted readers.
[ + to infinitive ] I've been meaning to call you all week.
Do you think she meant to say 9 a.m. instead of 9 p.m.?
They didn't mean for her to read the letter.
be meant to do sth

to be intended to:

These batteries are meant to last for a year.
This exercise isn't meant to be difficult.
We were meant to have gone away this week, but Debbie's ill so we couldn't go.
You are meant to rub the medicine on the affected area, not swallow it.

More examples

  • I didn't mean to be rude - it just came out like that.
  • He doesn't really mean it - he's just being contrary.
  • He's always making flattering remarks, but he doesn't really mean them.
  • I didn't mean to upset her - it was just a bit of fun.
  • He didn't mean it - he said it in the heat of the moment.

mean verb (HAVE IMPORTANCE)

B1 [ T ] to have an important emotional effect on someone:

It wasn't a valuable picture but it meant a lot to me.
Possessions mean nothing to him.

More examples

  • Her children mean all the world to her.
  • Gerald means nothing to me now.
  • Her career means everything to her.
  • Nothing means more to me than my children's happiness.
  • Her approval meant a lot to me.

meanadjective

uk /miːn/ us /miːn/

mean adjective (NOT GENEROUS)

B2 mainly UK not willing to give or share things, especially money:

He's too mean to buy her a ring.
My landlord's very mean with the heating - it's only on for two hours each day.

More examples

  • She's really quite unpleasant about other people and she's as mean as hell.
  • He's a mean old scrooge!
  • "That was amazingly generous of you!" "Well, that was a two-edged comment - are you saying I'm usually mean?"
  • He's too mean to buy any new clothes.
  • She only gave you 50p? That was a bit mean.

mean adjective (NOT KIND)

B2 unkind or unpleasant:

Stop being so mean to me!
She just said it to be mean.

More examples

  • He's as mean as they come.
  • You shouldn't have been so mean to your mother - she deserves better.
  • And she didn't invite him? That was a bit mean!
  • Stop being so mean to your brother!
  • It was mean of him to make her stay late.

mean adjective (MATHEMATICS)

C2 [ before noun ] specialized mathematics a mean number is an average number:

a mean value
Their mean weight was 76.4 kilos.

meannoun [ S ]

uk /miːn/ us /miːn/

mean noun [ S ] (MATHEMATICS)

specialized also the arithmetic mean mathematics the result you get by adding two or more amounts together and dividing the total by the number of amounts:

The mean of 5, 4, 10, and 15 is 8.5.
Compare

mean noun [ S ] (METHOD)

formal a quality or way of doing something that is in the middle of two completely different qualities or ways of doing something:

We need to find a mean between test questions that are too difficult and those that are too easy.

(Definition of “mean” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"mean" in American English

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meanverb

us /min/ past tense and past participle meant /ment/

mean verb (EXPRESS)

[ T ] to represent or express something intended, or to refer to someone or something:

"What does ’rough’ mean?" "It means ’not smooth.’"
[ + that clause ] These figures mean that almost 7% of the population is unemployed.
"Do you see that girl over there?" "Do you mean the one with short blond hair?"

mean verb (HAVE RESULT)

[ T ] to have as a result:

Lower costs mean higher profits.
[ + (that) clause ] If she doesn’t answer the phone, it means (that) she’s out in the garden.

mean verb (HAVE IMPORTANCE)

[ T ] to have the importance or value of:

My grandmother’s ring wasn’t valuable, but it meant a lot to me.

mean verb (INTEND)

[ I/T ] to say or do something intentionally; intend:

[ T ] I think she meant 8 o’clock, although she said 7 o’clock.
[ I ] I’ve been meaning to call you but I’ve been so busy I never got around to it.

[ I/T ] Mean can also be used to add emphasis to what you are saying:

[ T ] She means what she says.

mean noun [ C ] (AVERAGE)

mathematics a number that is the result of adding a group of numbers together and then dividing the result by how many numbers were in the group

meanadjective [ -er/-est only ]

us /min/

mean adjective [ -er/-est only ] (NOT KIND)

unkind or not caring:

I felt a little mean when I said I couldn’t visit her in the hospital until Saturday.

mean adjective [ -er/-est only ] (GOOD)

slang very good:

She plays a mean bass fiddle.

(Definition of “mean” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)

"mean" in Business English

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meannoun [ S ]

uk /miːn/ us

also arithmetic mean MEASURES the result you get by adding two or more amounts together and dividing the total by the number of amounts:

The mean of 5, 4, 10, and 15 is 8.5.

a quality or way of doing something that is in the middle of two completely different qualities or ways of doing something:

a mean between sth and sth This description doesn't give enough information, and this one is too long – we need to find a mean between the two.

meanverb [ T ]

uk /miːn/ us present participle meant, past tense and past participle meant

to express or represent something such as an idea, thought, or fact:

What does this word mean?
mean sth by sth What do you mean by 'rightsizing the department'?

to have a particular result:

Lower costs mean lower prices.
mean (that) Advances in electronics mean that the technology is already available.
mean doing sth If we increased our workforce, that would mean finding larger premises.

meanadjective

uk /miːn/ us

MEASURES a mean number is the result you get by adding two or more amounts together and dividing the total by the number of amounts:

The mean weight of the crates is 76.4 kilos.
The table above shows the mean price per dozen of large grade A eggs.

unkind:

be mean to sb If she's ever mean to staff, she always apologizes afterwards.

not generous:

be mean with sth My boss is well known for being mean with money.

(Definition of “mean” from the Cambridge Business English Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)