Did you know?

Click any word in a definition or example to find the entry for that word

mean - definition and synonyms

What are red words?

90% of the time, speakers of English use just 7,500 words in speech and writing. These words appear in red, and are graded with stars. One-star words are frequent, two-star words are more frequent, and three-star words are the most frequent.

Thesaurus diagram

The thesaurus of synonyms and related words is fully integrated into the dictionary. Click on the thesaurus category heading under the button in an entry to see the synonyms and related words for that meaning.

verb [transitive]     mean pronunciation in American English
Word Forms
present tense
present participlemeaning
past tensemeant
past participlemeant
  1. 1
    to have a particular meaning

    The word means something different in French.

    What doespulchritude” mean?

    mean something by something:

    Everything depends on what you mean by the wordfree.”

    Synonyms and related words
    1. a.
      to communicate a particular meaning, feeling, or piece of information

      When you shake your head it usually means “no.”

      For most people, Paris means romance.

      His behavior doesn’t mean that he doesn’t like you.

      take something to mean something (=understand it to have a particular meaning):

      I took their silence to mean disapproval.

      Synonyms and related words
    2. b.
      to be evidence that something exists

      That dark patch means that water is coming in.

      The look on her face meant only one thing – trouble.

  2. 2
    to intend something bad or harmful
    mean someone something:

    I know they didn’t mean our family any disrespect.

    mean someone harm (=intend to harm them):

    She had never meant him any real harm.

    1. a.
      to intend to do something, often something bad or wrong
      mean to do something:

      Whoops! I didn’t mean to step on your toe.

      I mean to leave that meeting with a new contract.

    2. b.
      to want someone to do something, or to want something to happen to someone
      mean (for) someone to do something:

      It was our secret – I didn’t mean for you to tell him.

      We didn’t mean for you to lose your job.

      Synonyms and related words
    3. c.
      to say something with a particular intention
      mean something as a joke/compliment/insult:

      Don’t be offended: she meant it as a compliment.

      Synonyms and related words
  3. 4
    to refer to someone or something when you are talking, looking, pointing, etc. at them

    No, I don’t mean her; I mean the tall woman.

quiz invitation
  • Facebook
  • Twitter


a combination of a hotdog and a hamburger in a specially designed bread bun

BuzzWord Article

Open Dictionary


a volume of articles, essays, etc., contributed by many authors in honor of a colleague, usually published on the occasion of their retirement, an important anniversary and the like

add a word


A must for anyone with an interest in the changing face of language. The Macmillan Dictionary blog explores English as it is spoken around the world today.

global English and language change from our blog
Macmillan learn live love play