use-icon

HOW TO USE THE DICTIONARY

Learn what the dictionary tells you about words.

Get Started Now!

Some compound words (like bus rapid transit, dog whistle, or identity theft) don’t appear on the drop-down list when you enter them into the search window. If a compound term doesn’t appear in the drop-down list, try entering the term into the search window and then hit the search button (instead of the “enter” key). Alternatively, begin searches for compound terms with a quotation mark.

use-icon

THE USAGE PANEL

The Usage Panel is a group of nearly 200 prominent scholars, creative writers, journalists, diplomats, and others in occupations requiring mastery of language. The Panelists are surveyed annually to gauge the acceptability of particular usages and grammatical constructions.

The Panelists

puzzle-icon

NEED HELP SOLVING A CROSSWORD PUZZLE?

Go to our Crossword Puzzle Solver and type in the letters that you know, and the Solver will produce a list of possible solutions.

open-icon

INTERESTED IN DICTIONARIES?

Check out the Dictionary Society of North America at http://www.dictionarysociety.com

open-icon

AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY APP

The new American Heritage Dictionary app is now available for iOS and Android.

scroll-icon

INDO-EUROPEAN & SEMITIC ROOTS APPENDICES

Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:

Indo-European Roots

Semitic Roots

The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.

open-icon

OPEN DICTIONARY PROJECT

Share your ideas for new words and new meanings of old words!

Start Sharing Now!

100-words-icon

See word lists from the best-selling 100 Words Series!

Find out more!

mean 1 (mēn)
Share:
v. meant (mĕnt), mean·ing, means
v.tr.
1.
a. To be used to convey; denote: "'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things'" (Lewis Carroll).
b. To act as a symbol of; signify or represent: In this poem, the budding flower means youth.
2. To intend to convey or indicate: "No one means all he says, and yet very few say all they mean, for words are slippery and thought is viscous" (Henry Adams).
3. To have as a purpose or an intention; intend: I meant to go running this morning, but I overslept.
4. To design, intend, or destine for a certain purpose or end: a building that was meant for storage; a student who was meant to be a scientist.
5. To have as a consequence; bring about: Friction means heat.
6. To have the importance or value of: The opinions of the critics meant nothing to him. She meant so much to me.
v.intr.
To have intentions of a specified kind; be disposed: They mean well but lack tact.
Idiom:
mean business Informal
To be in earnest.

[Middle English menen, from Old English mǣnan, to tell of; see mei-no- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 
mean 2 (mēn)
Share:
adj. mean·er, mean·est
1.
a. Lacking in kindness; unkind: The teacher was not being mean in asking you to be quiet.
b. Cruel, spiteful, or malicious: a mean boy who liked to make fun of others.
c. Expressing spite or malice: gave me a mean look.
d. Tending toward or characterized by cruelty or violence: mean streets.
e. Extremely unpleasant or disagreeable: the meanest storm in years.
2. Ignoble; base: a mean motive. See Synonyms at base2.
3. Miserly; stingy: mean with money.
4.
a. Low in value, rank, or social status: "I preferred the condition of the meanest reptile to my own" (Frederick Douglass).
b. Common or poor in appearance; shabby: "The rowhouses had been darkened by the rain and looked meaner and grimmer than ever" (Anne Tyler).
5. Slang
a. Hard to cope with; difficult or troublesome: He throws a mean fast ball.
b. Excellent; skillful: She plays a mean game of bridge.

[Middle English, from Old English gemǣne, common; see mei-1 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]

meanness n.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 
mean 3 (mēn)
Share:
n.
1. Something having a position, quality, or condition midway between extremes; a medium.
2. Mathematics
a. A number that typifies a set of numbers, such as a geometric mean or an arithmetic mean.
b. The average value of a set of numbers.
3. Logic The middle term in a syllogism.
4. means (used with a sing. or pl. verb) A method, a course of action, or an instrument by which an act can be accomplished or an end achieved.
5. means (used with a pl. verb)
a. Money, property, or other wealth: You ought to live within your means.
b. Great wealth: a woman of means.
adj.
1. Occupying a middle or intermediate position between two extremes.
2. Intermediate in size, extent, quality, time, or degree; medium.
Idioms:
by all means
Without fail; certainly.
by any means
In any way possible; to any extent: not by any means an easy opponent.
by means of
With the use of; owing to: They succeeded by means of patience and sacrifice.
by no means
In no sense; certainly not: This remark by no means should be taken lightly.

[Middle English mene, middle, from Old French meien, from Latin mediānus, from medius; see medhyo- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]

Usage Note: In the sense of "financial resources" means takes a plural verb: His means are more than adequate. In the sense of "a way to an end," means may be treated as a singular or plural. It is singular when referring to a particular strategy or method: The best means of securing the cooperation of the builders is to appeal to their self-interest. It is plural when it refers to a group of strategies or methods: The most effective means for dealing with the drug problem have often been those suggested by the affected communities. · Means is most often followed by of: a means of noise reduction. But for, to, and toward are also used: a means for transmitting sound; a means to an end; a means toward achieving equality.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 

This website is best viewed in Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, or Safari. Some characters in pronunciations and etymologies cannot be displayed properly in Internet Explorer.