If you got a fortune cookie with the message "Your future will contain many bananas," you might ask, "What on earth does that mean?" In other words, you wonder what the intention or meaning of the fortune might be.

Mean is one of those ordinary, everyday words with lots of different meanings. The adjective mean can describe someone who's stingy or ungenerous, but it also means "unkind or unfair," which is what a little kid intends to convey when she yells at her mother, "You're mean!" In the sentence, "She lived in a mean little house," mean has yet another meaning, this time being "shabby or poor."

Definitions of mean
  1. verb
    denote or connote
    “`maison' means `house' in French”
    “An example sentence would show what this word means
    synonyms: intend, signify, stand for
    convey or express a meaning
    see moresee less
    show 8 types...
    hide 8 types...
    denote, refer
    have as a meaning
    convolute, pervert, sophisticate, twist, twist around
    practice sophistry; change the meaning of or be vague about in order to mislead or deceive
    euphemise, euphemize
    refer to something with a euphemism
    come back, hark back, recall, return
    go back to something earlier
    identify, name
    give the name or identifying characteristics of; refer to by name or some other identifying characteristic property
    refer (a word or name) to a person or thing
    speak disparagingly of; e.g., make a racial slur
    express, state
    indicate through a symbol, formula, etc.
  2. verb
    have in mind as a purpose
    “I mean no harm”
    “I only meant to help you”
    synonyms: intend, think
    see moresee less
    show 6 types...
    hide 6 types...
    intend or have as a purpose
    be after, plan
    have the will and intention to carry out some action
    aim, propose, purport, purpose
    propose or intend
    think out
    consider carefully and rationally
    aim, aspire, draw a bead on, shoot for
    have an ambitious plan or a lofty goal
    go for, hope
    intend with some possibility of fulfilment
  3. verb
    destine or designate for a certain purpose
    “These flowers were meant for you”
    see moresee less
    type of:
    designate, destine, intend, specify
    design or destine
  4. verb
    mean or intend to express or convey
    “You never understand what I mean!”
    synonyms: intend
    see moresee less
    show 7 types...
    hide 7 types...
    represent, stand for, symbolise, symbolize, typify
    express indirectly by an image, form, or model; be a symbol
    convey or express a meaning
    import, spell
    indicate or signify
    direct (a remark) toward an intended goal
    aim, drive, get
    move into a desired direction of discourse
    be, embody, personify
    represent, as of a character on stage
    epitomise, epitomize, typify
    embody the essential characteristics of or be a typical example of
    type of:
    make known; pass on, of information
  5. verb
    intend to refer to
    “Yes, I meant you when I complained about people who gossip!”
    synonyms: have in mind, think of
    see moresee less
    show 11 types...
    hide 11 types...
    advert, bring up, cite, mention, name, refer
    make reference to
    commend, remember
    mention as by way of greeting or to indicate friendship
    speak of the devil
    mention someone's name who just then appears
    mention favorably, as in prayer
    cite, quote
    refer to for illustration or proof
    touch on
    refer to or discuss briefly
    appeal, invoke
    cite as an authority; resort to
    refer to people that one assumes one's interlocutors admire in order to try to impress them
    bring up, raise
    put forward for consideration or discussion
    drag up, dredge up
    mention something unpleasant from the past
    refer from one entry to another, as in catalogues, books, and lists
    type of:
    associate, colligate, connect, link, link up, relate, tie in
    make a logical or causal connection
  6. verb
    have as a logical consequence
    “The water shortage means that we have to stop taking long showers”
    synonyms: entail, imply
    see moresee less
    type of:
    cause to be a concomitant
  7. verb
    have a specified degree of importance
    “My ex-husband means nothing to me”
    “Happiness means everything”
  8. noun
    an average of n numbers computed by adding some function of the numbers and dividing by some function of n
    synonyms: mean value
    see moresee less
    arithmetic mean, expectation, expected value, first moment
    the sum of the values of a random variable divided by the number of values
    geometric mean
    the mean of n numbers expressed as the n-th root of their product
    harmonic mean
    the mean of n numbers expressed as the reciprocal of the arithmetic mean of the reciprocals of the numbers
    type of:
    average, norm
    a statistic describing the location of a distribution
  9. adjective
    approximating the statistical norm or average or expected value
    “the mean annual rainfall”
    synonyms: average
    conforming with or constituting a norm or standard or level or type or social norm; not abnormal
  10. adjective
    (used of persons or behavior) characterized by or indicative of lack of generosity
    “a mean person”
    synonyms: mingy, miserly, tight
    stingy, ungenerous
    unwilling to spend
  11. adjective
    (used of sums of money) so small in amount as to deserve contempt
    synonyms: beggarly
    stingy, ungenerous
    unwilling to spend
  12. adjective
    of no value or worth
    synonyms: bastardly
    contemptible, misbegotten
    deserving of contempt or scorn
  13. adjective
    marked by poverty befitting a beggar
    “a mean hut”
    synonyms: beggarly
    characterized by or indicating poverty
  14. adjective
    characterized by malice
    “in a mean mood”
    synonyms: hateful
    awful, nasty
    offensive or even (of persons) malicious
  15. adjective
    having or showing an ignoble lack of honor or morality
    “taking a mean advantage”
    “"chok'd with ambition of the meaner sort"- Shakespeare”
    synonyms: base, meanspirited
    completely lacking nobility in character or quality or purpose
  16. adjective
    “famous for a mean backhand”
    having or showing or requiring special skill
Commonly confused words

mean / median / average

Wordsmiths sometimes dislike numbers, or at least have a hard time grasping them. These words offer us an opportunity to better understand numbers and use their terms more precisely in writing and speaking.

Continue reading...

Word Family

Test prep from the experts

Boost your test score with programs developed by’s experts.

  • Proven methods: Learn faster, remember longer with our scientific approach.
  • Personalized plan: We customize your experience to maximize your learning.
  • Strategic studying: Focus on the words that are most crucial for success.


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 8 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 10 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 700+
  • Duration: 10 weeks
  • Time: 1 hour / week