If I say He is a mean man / boy / person, which of the several meanings of the word "mean" first comes to the mind of a native speaker? Do I always have to give details? The words unkind, spiteful, or unfare, which are given in dictionaries as almost synonyms (see mean: definition of mean (2) in Oxford dictionary (British & World English) ), seem very different in meaning to me (I do not include here the chiefly British meaning of "not willing to spend money", I just want to know the most typical meaning associated with "mean" personally for each of you.) Is it
that first comes to your mind
If I were a native speaker of English, I would never shut up. :-)
Last edited by emsr2d2; 08-Sep-2013 at 18:44. Reason: typo
Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.
The word originally meant "average" and "common" and therefore "not very gentlemanly" but evolved over time, especially in AmE, to signify "not nice" or "unkind" in a manner similar to "insensitive" or "uncaring" or even "moderately malicious."
Not a teacher!
I am not a native speaker, but without any context I would understand a mean man to be a not very nice person (the wife-beating kind of type). The problem is, what I think you mean could be different from what you meant to mean. Without putting words into some context they can become meaningless, if you know what I mean.
I would have to put a "wife-beating man" in a very different category from "a mean man". Something like "vile, contemptuous, criminal" etc.