mean

mean
1. In the meaning ‘to intend’, mean can be followed by a to-infinitive (when the speaker intends to do something: I meant to go), by an object + to-infinitive (when the speaker intends someone else to do something: I meant you to go) and, more formally, by a that-clause with should (I meant that you should go). Use of mean for + object + to-infinitive (☒ I meant for you to go) is non-standard.
2. I mean is legitimately used to introduce an explanation of what has just been said:

• He was a marvellous butler. I mean, if you went there he'd welcome you in the most graceful and polite and proper way —New Yorker, 1986.

In conversation it is increasingly heard as a sentence-filler, rather like you know (see know):

• ‘Only…very nice?’ he asked woefully. ‘Oh, it's great! I mean, it's fantastic!’ —Los Angeles Times, 1987.

This use is informal only but, as so often, there are borderline uses that blur distinctions:

• I wasn't interested in him. I mean, when you shoot juice, you lose the other thing —H. C. Rae, 1972

• I publish, I mean I have had published, a few what we used to call slim volumes of verse, um, poetry, you know —Christopher Hampton, 1974.

It is all too easy to point to extremes that no one would consider standard

• (You know, like, uh, hey, man, I mean, cool, huh? —L. Woidwode, 1992)

the real difficulties lie in the greyer areas of usage.
3. In the passive, to be meant has for long had the sense ‘to be destined (by providence), to have special significance’:

• When I need you, you are here. You must see how meant it all is —Iris Murdoch, 1974.

During the 20c this use was joined by another passive use in which meant followed by a to-infinitive means little more than ‘supposed, thought, intended’:

• For today he was meant to be having dinner with Stephanie at the Dear Friends —A. N. Wilson, 1986.

This altered meaning is now so familiar that its relative newness can cause surprise.

Modern English usage. 2014.

Synonyms:

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Mean — Mean, a. [OE. mene, OF. meiien, F. moyen, fr. L. medianus that is in the middle, fr. medius; akin to E. mid. See {Mid}.] 1. Occupying a middle position; middle; being about midway between extremes. [1913 Webster] Being of middle age and a mean… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Mean — «Mean» Sencillo de Taylor Swift del álbum Speak Now Publicación 31 de marzo, 2011 Grabación 2010 Género(s) Country pop Duración 3:58 …   Wikipedia Español

  • mean# — mean adj Mean, ignoble, abject, sordid can all be applied to persons, their behavior, or the conditions in which they live with the meaning so low as to be out of keeping with human dignity or generally acceptable standards of human life or… …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • Mean — Mean, n. 1. That which is mean, or intermediate, between two extremes of place, time, or number; the middle point or place; middle rate or degree; mediocrity; medium; absence of extremes or excess; moderation; measure. [1913 Webster] But to speak …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • mean — mean1 [mēn] vt. meant [ment] meaning [ME menen < OE mænan, to mean, tell, complain, akin to Ger meinen, to have in mind, have as opinion < IE base * meino , opinion, intent > OIr mian, wish, desire] 1. to have in mind; intend; purpose… …   English World dictionary

  • Mean — (m[=e]n), a. [Compar. {Meaner} (m[=e]n [ e]r); superl. {Meanest}.] [OE. mene, AS. m[=ae]ne wicked; akin to m[=a]n, a., wicked, n., wickedness, OS. m[=e]n wickedness, OHG. mein, G. meineid perjury, Icel. mein harm, hurt, and perh. to AS.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Méan — (homonymie) Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom.  France Méan est une ancienne commune française de la Loire Atlantique, aujourd hui intégrée à Saint Nazaire …   Wikipédia en Français

  • mean — Ⅰ. mean [1] ► VERB (past and past part. meant) 1) intend to express or refer to. 2) (of a word) have as its explanation in the same language or its equivalent in another language. 3) intend to occur or be the case. 4) have as a consequence. 5) …   English terms dictionary

  • Mean — (m[=e]n), v. t. [imp. & p. p. {Meant} (m[e^]nt); p. pr. & vb. n. {Meaning}.] [OE. menen, AS. m[=ae]nan to recite, tell, intend, wish; akin to OS. m[=e]nian to have in mind, mean, D. meenen, G. meinen, OHG. meinan, Icel. meina, Sw. mena, Dan. mene …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • mean — [adj1] ungenerous close, greedy, mercenary, mingy, miserly, niggard, parsimonious, penny pinching*, penurious, rapacious, scrimpy, selfish, stingy, tight, tight fisted*; concept 334 Ant. generous, kind, unselfish mean [adj2] hostile, rude bad… …   New thesaurus

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.