Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

how to use the word mean in English

Today our listener Lucas asks us how to use the word “mean.”

There are a bunch of ways to use it.

Find out today.

Here is today’s question:

Hi girls,

My name is Lucas Ferreira and I am from Brazil. I would like to suggest a topic to be approached on a new podcast episode. Sometimes I listen someone saying that something was ‘mean’ or ‘they are meaning’. I know that meaning means to mean, but sometimes it could be like a feeling (bad) someone is having. Am I right? Could you help me out about this word? Thanks in advance. – Lucas


Were you ever mean to people when you were a kid?

This is a great question from our listener! 

Listen to Episode 547 to hear what “I mean” means but it can be used in many other contexts as well. 

We’ll talk about those today.


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What does it “mean”?

So when we use the word “mean” it  can be used to talk about the definition of something.


  • “The word frustrated means angry and stressed and maybe sad all together!”
  • “I’m trying to find the meaning of life. Aren’t we all?”
  • “I think what she means is she doesn’t think we should change what we are doing until the boss gets back to us.”


Your question is about the other way of using the word “mean”

The word “mean” can also signify being rude or not being nice to someone. It’s an adjective.

This makes me think of children.

A lot of children may say someone is “mean.” 


“Mean” can describe a person or an action.

For example:

  • “That girl is so mean. She stepped on my toe and didn’t apologize!”
  • “Wow that was so mean of you. You have to call that girl back and say you are sorry.”


It also be used as a way to say “intend”:


  • “He didn’t mean it!”
  • A” “You pushed me!” B: “Sorry, I didn’t mean it”


It is also used to talk about a method:

“By any means necessary”


  • “I don’t know exactly how to do it. Don’t worry, I’ll get it done by any means necessary.”


It can be used when you talk about money and finances:


  • “The family did not have the means to take a vacation this year, but they are saving up for next year.”


There are a ton of ways to use the word “mean” or “means.”
Try using one or two of these in your next conversation!

Let us know your questions below.


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