Definition of mean adjective from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary



    BrE BrE//miːn//
    ; NAmE NAmE//miːn//
    (meaner, meanest) Describing unpleasant traits, Mathematical terminology, Anger
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    not generous
  1. 1(British English) (North American English cheap) not willing to give or share things, especially money She's always been mean with money.
  2. opposite generous see also stingy
  3. 2mean (to somebody) (of people or their behaviour) unkind, for example by not letting somebody have or do something Don't be so mean to your little brother! See related entries: Describing unpleasant traits
  4. angry/violent
  5. 3(especially North American English) likely to become angry or violent That's a mean-looking dog. See related entries: Describing unpleasant traits, Anger
  6. skilful
  7. 4(informal, especially North American English) very good and skilful He's a mean tennis player. She plays a mean game of chess.
  8. average
  9. 5[only before noun] (specialist) average; between the highest and the lowest, etc. the mean temperature See related entries: Mathematical terminology
  10. intelligence
  11. 6(formal) (of a person’s understanding or ability) not very great This should be clear even to the meanest intelligence.
  12. poor
  13. 7(literary) poor and dirty in appearance mean houses/streets
  14. 8(old-fashioned) born into or coming from a low social class These rights apply even to the meanest labourer.
  15. Word Originadjective senses 1 to 4 and adjective senses 6 to 8 Middle English, shortening of Old English gemǣne, of Germanic origin, from an Indo-European root shared by Latin communis ‘common’. The original sense was ‘common to two or more people’, later ‘inferior in rank’, leading to senses (6-8) and a sense ‘ignoble, small-minded’, from which senses (1) to (3) (which became common in the 19th cent.) arose. adjective sense 5 Middle English: from Old French meien, from Latin medianus ‘middle’, from medius ‘mid’.Extra examples He’s rather mean when it comes to spending money on the children. He’s so mean to his mother! I thought it was really mean of him not to let her use the car. She’s very mean with her money. That was a pretty mean trick. Don’t be so mean to your little brother! Don’t be so mean with the chocolate sauce. He has a mean streak in him. It was difficult to manage the department on such a mean budget. They were too mean to buy the kids proper beds.Idioms (approving) used to say that somebody is very good at doing something His mother was a painter, and he's no mean artist himself.
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: mean