The Meaning of Mean: What It Is and How To Use It

Have you ever been confused about the definition of mean? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word mean, including its definition, etymology, usage, examples of mean, and more!

Your writing, at its best

Compose bold, clear, mistake-free, writing with Grammarly's AI-powered writing assistant

What does the word mean mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language and other sources like American Heritage and Collins English Dictionary, the word mean can be used as a noun, adjective or verb. As a noun, the mean is used in arithmetics and statistics  to refer to an intermediate value or middle point within extremes. To find the arithmetic mean or geometric mean, one will add all of the values together and divide them by the quantity of values there are. There are also other ways to find medium or average values, including the median and mode, as well as standard deviation. The median is the number that is in the intermediate position when put in numerical order, and the mode is the number that appears most often in the variance of values. Finding the intermediate place of middle numbers of data points is very valuable for many professions. 

The word mean can also be used as an adjective. This is used in a pejorative sense in standard English to refer to someone who is rude, hostile, or in low spirits toward others. This person may do different things to treat others this way. As a verb, the word mean means to intend. The infinitive to mean means the same thing as the infinitive to intend. You might also hear the word mean used in phrases like “mean feat” or “mean business.” Mean is one syllable – mean – and the pronunciation of mean is miːn.

Many different languages also contain words that mean the word mean, in all definitions. However, unlike in the English language, other languages often do not share the same word for the two definitions of mean. You may notice that some of these translations look and sound similar to each other. These cognates are often formed when two words have the same or a similar root language such as Latin or Greek. These lists of translations for the word mean are provided by Word Sense

Mean (v.) – To intend

  •  Esperanto: intenci‎
  •  Czech: chtít‎, plánovat‎
  •  Japanese: 意図‎, するつもり‎ (suru tsumori)
  •  Romanian: vrea‎, avea intenția‎, gândi‎
  •  Italian: volere‎, avere l’intenzione‎, intendere‎
  •  Icelandic: ætla‎
  •  Tagalog: sadyain‎, kusain‎, tikisin‎
  •  Ukrainian: збиратися‎
  •  Turkish: planlamak‎, tasarlamak‎
  •  Spanish: pretender‎, intentar‎
  •  Polish: chcieć‎
  •  Macedonian: сака‎ (saka)
  •  Telugu: పధకము వేయు‎, అనుకోవడము‎
  •  Dutch: willen‎, van plan zijn‎
  •  Russian: собира́ться‎ (impf), намерева́ться‎ (impf)
  •  French: avoir l’intention‎
  •  Finnish: aikoa‎
  •  Latin: volo‎, habeo in animo‎
  •  Swedish: tänka‎
  •  Catalan: pretendre‎
  •  Portuguese: pretender‎, tencionar‎
  •  German: beabsichtigen‎
  •  Thai: ตั้งใจ‎ (dtângjai)

Mean (adj.) – Having disrespect or intent to harm

  •  Sorani: ناهه‌موار‎
  •  Finnish: ilkeä‎
  •  Gallurese: scurzónu‎, taccagnu‎
  •  Dutch: gemeen‎, boosaardig‎
  •  Russian: злой‎, зло́бный‎
  •  Tagalog: imbi‎, bulastog‎
  •  Spanish: malo‎, malvado‎, cruel‎
  •  Italian: cattivo‎, maligno‎, malevolo‎, sgarbato‎
  •  Arabic: لَئِيم‎, خَسِيس‎
  •  Swedish: elak‎
  •  Portuguese: mau‎, ruim‎, maldoso‎
  •  Esperanto: kruela‎, malafabla‎
  •  German: gemein‎
  •  French: méchant‎, cruel‎
  •  Basque: anker‎, gaizto‎
  •  Japanese: 腹黒い‎ (haraguroi)
  •  Greek: άγριος‎
  •  Telugu: కారణమగుట‎

Mean (n.) – In mathematics, the average of a set of values

  •  Interlingua: media‎
  •  Portuguese: média‎ (fem.)
  •  Indonesian: rata-rata‎
  •  Tagalog: kagintaan‎, kagitnaan
  •  German: Mittel‎ (neut.)
  •  Japanese: 平均‎ (へいきん, heikin), 平均値‎ (へいきんち, heikinchi)
  •  Maori: toharite‎
  •  Romanian: mijloc‎, mediu‎, medie‎
  •  Spanish: media‎ (fem.)
  •  Swedish: genomsnitt‎ (neut.), medelvärde‎ (neut.)
  •  Scottish Gaelic: meadhan‎ (masc.), cuibheas‎ (masc.), cuibheasachd‎ (fem.)
  •  Dutch: gemiddelde‎ (neut.)
  •  Italian: media‎ (fem.)
  •  Finnish: keskiarvo‎
  •  French: moyenne‎ (fem.)

What is the origin of the word mean?

According to Etymonline, the word mean has been used as an adjective since 1200, a noun since 1300, and a verb since the late 14c. The word mean comes from the Middle English menen and Middle English mene, from Old English mǣnan/Old English mænan and the Old English gemǣne. This is similar to the Old High German meinen, Old High German gimeini and Old Church Slavonic měniti. These come from the Latin medianus, Latin communis, Latin mediānus, and other such sources like the Old French meien and Old French moien.

What are synonyms for the word mean?

There are many different words that one can use in place of the word mean, for all its different definitions. It can be useful to know synonyms, which are words that have the same definition as another word or phrase, in this case because it can help eliminate any confusion between the two definitions of the word. Additionally, knowing synonyms can help people avoid repeating themselves as well as help people expand their vocabulary. Try using this word of the day in a sentence today! This list of synonyms for the word mean is provided by Thesaurus.

Mean (v.) – To intend

  •  make
  •  intend
  •  predestine
  •  set out
  •  direct
  •  aim
  •  want
  •  fate
  •  desire
  •  suit
  •  contemplate
  •  preordain
  •  wish
  •  fit
  •  destine
  •  expect
  •  propose
  •  resolve
  •  design
  •  aspire
  •  plan
  •  anticipate
  •  purpose
  •  match

Mean (adj.) – Having disrespect or intent to harm

  •  despicable
  •  down
  •  rotten
  •  troublesome
  •  dirty
  •  treacherous
  •  rugged
  •  hard
  •  shameless
  •  infamous
  •  hard-nosed
  •  difficult
  •  bad-tempered
  •  formidable
  •  low-down and dirty
  •  churlish
  •  unpleasant
  •  snide
  •  cantankerous
  •  the lowest
  •  malicious
  •  lousy
  •  disagreeable
  •  vexatious
  •  sour
  •  dishonorable
  •  contemptible
  •  pesky
  •  ugly
  •  knavish
  •  unscrupulous
  •  scurrilous
  •  sinking
  •  liverish
  •  nasty
  •  callous
  •  vicious
  •  hostile
  •  touch
  •  ill-tempered
  •  dangerous
  •  unfriendly
  •  malign
  •  evil
  •  rough
  •  ignoble
  •  perfidious
  •  rude
  •  vile

Mean (n.) – In mathematics, the average of a set of values

  •  balance
  •  middle
  •  middle course
  •  par
  •  midpoint
  •  norm
  •  center
  •  median
  •  average
  •  happy medium
  •  compromise

Overall, the word mean can be used as a noun referring to the average value of a set of numbers, calculated by dividing the sum of the values by the number of values or number of numbers. The second usage is as an adjective, referring to someone who is rude or hostile. Third, mean is a verb meaning to intend.


  1. Mean | Definition of Mean | Merriam-Webster
  2. mean: meaning, origin, translation | Word Sense 
  3. mean | Origin and meaning of mean | Online Etymology Dictionary 
  4. MEAN Synonyms: 236 Synonyms & Antonyms for MEAN | Thesaurus