The term ‘mean’ may seem straightforward enough because we use it often in our everyday language. But its actual meanings could be varied depending on the context it is used in. Essentially, the word ‘mean’ has two major applications in English language: one in regular conversation, and another in mathematics.
In ordinary conversation, ‘mean’ most often refers to the intention or purpose behind a person’s words or actions. In this sense, it answers the question ‘what is the intended message or purpose?’ For instance, if someone were to ask, ‘What do you mean?’ they’re asking for clarification about what you’re trying to communicate. A sentence like, “I didn’t mean to upset you with my comment,” indicates the speaker did not intend for their words to upset the listener.
‘Mean’ can also refer to average value in the field of mathematics or statistics. This usage originates from a measure of central tendency, which is a key concept in statistics. Calculating the mean involves adding up all the numbers in a data set, and then dividing by the number of values in that set to determine the average value. For instance, if you have the numbers 3, 5, and 7, the mean would be (3+5+7)/3 which equals 5. This statistical mean is often referred to as the ‘arithmetic mean’.
Aside from those common uses, ‘mean’ still has a few lesser-known applications. For instance, it might refer to being unkind or malicious (as in a person who is ‘mean’). In another case, it can be used to describe something that is average or unimpressive.
So, as is clear by now, the term ‘mean’ is pretty versatile and its meaning isn’t limited to a single definition. It’s a word that can connote a wide range of ideas and concepts depending on the given context in which it is used.
So it’s crucial to pay attention to the context to accurately understand the intended meaning. It could be about someone’s intention, the average value of a statistical data set, or a qualitative descriptor. In essence, ‘mean’ is just… well, it depends.