Meaning of MEAN in English




( means, meaning, meant)

Frequency: The word is one of the 700 most common words in English.

Please look at category 19 to see if the expression you are looking for is shown under another headword.


If you want to know what a word, code, signal, or gesture means , you want to know what it refers to or what its message is.

In modern Welsh, ‘glas’ means ‘blue’...

The red signal means you can shoot.

VERB : no cont , V n , V that


If you ask someone what they mean , you are asking them to explain exactly what or who they are referring to or what they are intending to say.

Do you mean me?...

I think he means that he does not want this marriage to turn out like his friend’s.

VERB : no cont , V n , V that


If something means something to you, it is important to you in some way.

The idea that she witnessed this shameful incident meant nothing to him...

It would mean a lot to them to win.

VERB : no cont , V amount to n , it V amount to-inf , also V amount


If one thing means another, it shows that the second thing exists or is true.

An enlarged prostate does not necessarily mean cancer...

Just because he has a beard doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a hippy.

VERB : no cont , V n , V that


If one thing means another, the first thing leads to the second thing happening.

It would almost certainly mean the end of NATO...

The change will mean that the country no longer has full diplomatic relations with other states.

VERB : no cont , V n , V that


If doing one thing means doing another, it involves doing the second thing.

Managing well means communicating well.

VERB : V -ing


If you say that you mean what you are saying, you are telling someone that you are serious about it and are not joking, exaggerating, or just being polite.

He says you’re fired if you’re not back at work on Friday. And I think he meant it...

VERB : no cont , V n


If you say that someone meant to do something, you are saying that they did it deliberately.

I didn’t mean to hurt you...

I can see why you believed my letters were threatening but I never meant them to be.

= intend

VERB : no cont , V to-inf , V n to-inf


If you say that someone did not mean any harm, offence, or disrespect, you are saying that they did not intend to upset or offend people or to cause problems, even though they may in fact have done so.

I’m sure he didn’t mean any harm...

= intend

VERB : no cont , with brd-neg , V n


If you mean to do something, you intend or plan to do it.

Summer is the perfect time to catch up on the new books you meant to read...

= intend

VERB : no cont , V to-inf


If you say that something was meant to happen, you believe that it was made to happen by God or fate, and did not just happen by chance.

John was constantly reassuring me that we were meant to be together.

VERB : usu passive , no cont , be V-ed to-inf


You say ‘ I mean ’ when making clearer something that you have just said. ( SPOKEN )

It was his idea. Gordon’s, I mean...

PHRASE : PHR with cl


You can use ‘ I mean ’ to introduce a statement, especially one that justifies something that you have just said. ( SPOKEN )

I’m sure he wouldn’t mind. I mean, I was the one who asked him...

PHRASE : PHR with cl


You say I mean when correcting something that you have just said. ( SPOKEN )

It was law or classics–I mean English or classics.

PHRASE : PHR with cl


If you know what it means to do something, you know everything that is involved in a particular activity or experience, especially the effect that it has on you.

I know what it means to lose a child under such tragic circumstances.

PHRASE : Vs inflect , oft PHR to-inf


If a name, word, or phrase means something to you, you have heard it before and you know what it refers to.

‘Oh, Gairdner,’ he said, as if that meant something to him...

PHRASE : V inflects , PHR n


If you say that someone means well , you mean they are trying to be kind and helpful, even though they might be causing someone problems or upsetting them.

I know you mean well, but I can manage by myself.

PHRASE : V inflects


You use ‘ you mean ’ in a question to check that you have understood what someone has said.

What accident? You mean Christina’s?...

‘What if I had said no?’ ‘About the apartment, you mean?’

PHRASE : PHR with cl


to mean business: see business

if you know what I mean: see know

see also meaning , means , meant



( meaner, meanest)


If you describe someone as mean , you are being critical of them because they are unwilling to spend much money or to use very much of a particular thing. ( mainly BRIT; in AM, use cheap , stingy )

Don’t be mean with fabric, otherwise curtains will end up looking skimpy.

= stingy

ADJ [ disapproval ]

• mean‧ness

This very careful attitude to money can sometimes border on meanness.



If you describe an amount as mean , you are saying that it is very small. ( BRIT )

...the meanest grant possible from the local council.

ADJ [ disapproval ]


If someone is being mean , they are being unkind to another person, for example by not allowing them to do something.

The little girls had locked themselves in upstairs because Mack had been mean to them...

I’d feel mean saying no.

ADJ : usu v-link ADJ , oft ADJ to n

• mean‧ly

He had been behaving very meanly to his girlfriend.

ADV : usu ADV with v , also ADV adj


If you describe a person or animal as mean , you are saying that they are very bad-tempered and cruel. ( mainly AM )

...the meanest fighter in the world.



If you describe a place as mean , you think that it looks poor and dirty.

He was raised on the mean streets of the central market district of Panama City.

ADJ : usu ADJ n


You can use no mean in expressions such as ‘ no mean writer ’ and ‘ no mean golfer ’ to indicate that someone does something well. ( INFORMAL )

She was no mean performer on a variety of other instruments...

PHRASE : PHR n [ approval ]


You can use no mean in expressions such as ‘ no mean achievement ’ and ‘ no mean task ’ to indicate that someone has done something they deserve to be proud of.

To destroy 121 enemy aircraft is no mean record...




The mean is a number that is the average of a set of numbers.

Take a hundred and twenty values and calculate the mean.

...the mean score for 26-year-olds.

= average

N-SING : the N , oft N n

see also means

Collins COBUILD Advanced Learner's English Dictionary.      Английский словарь Коллинз COBUILD для изучающих язык на продвинутом уровне.