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What is the meaning of the word mean?

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The word "mean" has several uses in English.

Arithmetic and statistics
Mean is the average of the individual elements of a sample calculated by summing all the elements and dividing by the number of elements. The word "average" usually means the mean.

However, note that there are two other "averages" - the median (the element that is in the middle when the elements are listed in order) and mode (the element which occurs the most frequently). If someone quoting statistics uses the word "average" without qualification as to which average they are talking about it is very likely that there is a significant difference between the values of the "mean average" (which can be skewed quite a bit by large values at an end of the data) and the "median average" (the figure in the middle which is used by government statistics).

One such example is "average" wages in a company where the mean average can be significantly higher than the median average as it will include board members with their large pay (and bonuses) along with the majority of the worker who work on the "shop floor" with their significantly lower pay.

The next definition comes from probability theory. The mean of a random variable is the same as the expected value. (See related link) The mean is a parameter that is frequently necessary to define a distribution. The Greek symbol, mu (µ), can be used for this value. When discussing theoretical distributions and their properties, such as expectation, the term "mean" should always be used.

A word "means" what it is defined as (its meaning).

Relationships (adjective)
"Being mean" is a colloquial term for being cruel or nasty, or mistreating someone.
Mean (meaner, meanest) as an adjective:
  • Middle or intermediate position between two extremes;
  • Unwilling to give or share things;
  • Unkind, spiteful, or unfair;
  • Vicious or aggressive in behavior;
  • Shabby, poor in quality and appearance;
  • Of low birth or social class;
  • Excellent, very skillful or effective. Example: Bobby Flay barbecues a mean chicken.

Mean (means, meaning, meant) as a verb:
  • Intending to convey, indicate, or refer to;
  • Signifying the same or equivalent word or words in another language;
  • Express some importance as a source of benefit or object of affection;
  • Intend to occur or be the case;
  • Design or designate for a particular purpose;
  • Have as a motive, excuse, or explanation;
  • Have as a consequence or result;
  • Genuinely intend to convey or express. Example: I really do mean to do it.

Mean (means) as a noun:
  • The sum of several quantities and their number, an average;
  • A condition, quality, or course of action equally removed from two opposite (usually unsatisfactory) extremes;
  • A method, a course of action, or an instrument by which an act can be accomplished or an end achieved. Example: I don't have the means to take the trip this year.
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