Language: Old English
Origin: m├Žnan


1 verb
mean1 S1 W1 [transitive] past tense and past participle meant

have a particular meaning

[not in progressive] to have or represent a particular meaning:
What does 'patronizing' mean?
The red light means 'Stop'.
The report fails to define what is meant by the term 'key issues'.
mean (that)
This light means you're running low on fuel.

intend to say something

[not in progressive] to intend a particular meaning when you say something
mean (that)
I meant we'd have to leave early - that's all.
It's pretty obvious what she means.
(do) you mean spoken (=used to check you have understood what someone intended to say)
Do you mean you've changed or Chris has changed?
do/if you know/see what I mean? spoken (=used to check that someone understands you)
I want to buy her something really special, if you know what I mean.
We're still married but living apart in the same house, if you see what I mean.
Oh yeah! I see what you mean. (=I understand what you are trying to say)
What I mean is, I don't feel alone anymore' (=used to explain more about what you have said).
'I didn't really like him.' ' I know what you mean, I didn't get on with him either (=used to say you understand and have had the same experience).
'In three hours' time, I'll be a free man.' ' How do you mean?' (=used to ask someone to explain what they have just said)

intend to do something

to intend to do something or intend that someone else should do something
mean to do something
I've been meaning to ask you if you want to come for a meal next week.
I didn't mean to upset you.
mean somebody/something to do something
I didn't mean this to happen at all.
I never meant you to find out.
mean for somebody to do something especially American English
I didn't mean for her to get hurt.
I'm sure she didn't mean it (=you did not intend to upset or hurt someone).
mean no harm/offence/disrespect (=not intend to harm, offend etc someone)
I'm sure he didn't mean any harm.
He may sound a bit rude at times, but he means well (=intends to be helpful or kind, even if it does not seem like that).
I wasn't criticizing you, I really meant it for the best (=wanted to be helpful, although my actions had the wrong effect).

result in something

[not in progressive] to have a particular result or involve something:
The merger will mean the closure of the company's Sydney office.
Don't let him see you. It will only mean trouble.
mean (that)
The high cost of housing means that many young people can't afford to buy a house.
mean doing something
My new job will mean travelling all over the world.
Dieting also means being careful about which foods you buy.

be familiar

[not in progressive] if a name, word etc means something to you, you are familiar with it or you understand it:
He said his name was 'Randall' but it meant nothing to me (=I was not familiar with it).
Does the name Bryce mean anything to you?
You need to use analogies which will mean something to the reader.

say something seriously

[not in progressive] to be serious about what you are saying or writing:
With children, if you say 'no', you have to mean it.
I meant what I said earlier.
You don't really mean that, do you?

how important somebody/something is

[not in progressive] used for saying how important someone or something is to you
mean something to somebody
I know how much your work means to you.
The medal meant a lot to him.
mean the world to somebody/mean everything to somebody (=be very important to someone)
He meant the world to her.
Time meant nothing (=it was not important) to me while I was travelling.
Of course the relationship meant something to me.

show something is true/will happen

[not in progressive] to be a sign that something is true or will happen
mean (that)
Finding a lump does not necessarily mean you have cancer.
Clear skies mean that it will be a cold night.
Just because he's been in prison, it doesn't mean that he's violent.
9 spoken

what do you mean ...?

a) used when you do not understand what someone is trying to say:
'You'll be careful won't you?' 'What do you mean?'
b) used when you are very surprised or annoyed by what someone has just said:
What do you mean, you've cancelled the trip?
What do you mean by that?
c) used when you are very annoyed by what someone has just done:
What do you mean by calling me at this time of night?
10 spoken

say which person/thing

used to say that a particular person or thing is the one that you are talking about, pointing to etc:
'Hey you!' 'Do you mean me?'
I meant the pink dress, not the red one.
11 spoken

I mean

a) used when explaining or giving an example of something, or when pausing to think about what you are going to say next:
You're more of an expert than me. I mean, you've got all that experience.
It's just not right. I mean, it's unfair isn't it?
b) used to quickly correct something you have just said:
She plays the violin, I mean the viola, really well.
12 spoken

see what I mean?

used when something that happens proves what you said before:
See what I mean? Every time she calls me up she wants me to do something for her.
13 spoken

that's what I mean

used when someone is saying the same thing that you were trying to say earlier:
'We might not have enough money.' 'That's what I mean, so we'd better find out the price first.'
14 spoken

I mean to say

used when adding a reason or explanation for something you have just said, especially something you feel strongly about:
Of course she wants to see the children, I mean to say, it's only natural isn't it?

mean business

to be determined to do something:
This decision shows the public that we mean business.

be meant to do something

a) if you are meant to do something, you should do it, especially because someone has told you to or because you are responsible for it:
Come on, Ellen, you're meant to be helping me.
I thought the police were meant to protect people.
b) to be intended to do something:
The diagram is meant to show the different stages of the process.

be meant to be good/excellent/bad etc

used to say that you have heard or read that something is good, bad etc:
The play is meant to be really good.

be meant for somebody/something

to be intended for a particular person or purpose:
a book meant for children

be meant for somebody

if two people are meant for each other, they are very suitable as partners for each other:
They were meant for each other.
She's meant for him.

somebody was never meant for something/to be something

used to say that someone is not at all suitable for a particular job or activity:
I was never meant for the army.

something was meant to be/happen

used to say that you think a situation was certain to happen and that no one could have prevented it:
Dan left me after a month so I guess it just wasn't meant to be.

know/understand what it means to be something

to have experienced a particular situation, so that you know what it is like:
I know what it means to be alone in a foreign country.

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