Definition 2023






  1. plural of mean
  2. (countable, singular and plural) An instrument or condition for attaining a purpose.
    She treated him as a means to an end.
    A car is a means of transport.
    • 1622, Francis Bacon, History of the reign of King Henry VII:
      And by this means also he had them the more at vantage, being tired and harassed with a long march; and more at mercy, being cut off far from their country, and therefore not able by any sudden flight to get to retreat, and to renew their troubles.
    • 1623, William Shakespeare, Timon of Athens, Act V, Scene 1:
      Our hope in him is dead: let us return,
      And strain what other means is left unto us
      In our dear peril.
    • 2013 June 7, Ed Pilkington, Killer robots should be banned in advance, UN told”, in The Guardian Weekly, volume 188, number 26, page 6:
      In his submission to the UN, [Christof] Heyns points to the experience of drones. Unmanned aerial vehicles were intended initially only for surveillance, and their use for offensive purposes was prohibited, yet once strategists realised their perceived advantages as a means of carrying out targeted killings, all objections were swept out of the way.
  3. (uncountable, plural only) Resources; riches.
    a person of means;   independent means
    He was living beyond his means.
    • 1676, Richard Baxter, A Treatise of Justifying Righteousness, page 163:
      Where there is much means to be used, and conditions yet to be performed, for the continuation and Consummation of our Justification, there it is not yet continued or consummate.
    • 1888, Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, editor, The Communist Manifesto, page 5:
      Because there is too much civilisation, too much means of subsistence, too much industry, too much commerce
    • 1921, United States. Congress. Senate. Committee on the Judiciary, Authorizing association of producers of agricultural products, page 99:
      Then the other 12 packers [] were men without much means, who lived in Fresno
    • 1955, Rex Stout, “Die Like a Dog”, in Three Witnesses, Bantam Books, ISBN 055324959, page 154:
      Some kind of writer. He didn't have to make a living; he had means.

Usage notes

Frequently contrasted with end (goal), as in “a means to an end”. Similar contrast is process vs. product.





  1. third-person singular simple present indicative form of mean


Most common English words before 1923: hundred · believe · white · #282: means · thus · order · near




Present active participle of meō (go along, traverse)



meāns m, f, n (genitive meantis); third declension

  1. going along, passing, traversing


Third declension.

Number Singular Plural
Case / Gender Masc./Fem. Neuter Masc./Fem. Neuter
nominative meāns meantēs meantia
genitive meantis meantium
dative meantī meantibus
accusative meantem meāns meantēs meantia
ablative meante, meantī1 meantibus
vocative meāns meantēs meantia

1When used purely as an adjective.