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Median vs. Mean: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed || Updated on December 25, 2023
Median is the middle value in a set of numbers, while Mean is the average, calculated by adding all numbers and dividing by the count.
Median vs. Mean

Key Differences

Median represents the middle value in a sorted list of numbers, exactly splitting the dataset into two halves. Mean, or average, is computed by adding all the values together and dividing by the number of values. The median is less affected by extreme values, whereas the mean can be skewed by them.
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Nov 18, 2023
In statistics, the median is used as a measure of central tendency, especially useful in skewed distributions. The mean is also a measure of central tendency, but it can be misleading in distributions with outliers. Median provides a better central value in such cases, while the mean may not accurately represent the data.
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When considering incomes or property values, median can give a more accurate sense of the typical value, as it is not skewed by extremely high or low values. In contrast, the mean might give a distorted view if a few values are exceptionally high or low compared to the rest.
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In datasets with an even number of values, the median is the average of the two middle numbers. For the mean, all values are equally significant, regardless of their position in the data set. Thus, the mean considers all data points, while the median focuses on the central position.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 18, 2023
The median is often used in ordinal data, where values are ranked but not necessarily equally spaced. The mean is more appropriate for interval or ratio data, where the distances between values are meaningful. Median is suitable for ordinal data, whereas mean is ideal for more precise numerical data.
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Comparison Chart

Definition

Middle value in a sorted list
Average of all values
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Influence by Outliers

Less affected by outliers
Can be skewed by outliers
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Data Type Suitability

Better for ordinal data
Ideal for interval/ratio data
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Representation

Reflects central position
Reflects overall distribution
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Calculation in Even Set

Average of two middle numbers
Same method regardless of data set size
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Median and Mean Definitions

Median

Central value in a data set, particularly in statistics.
The median age of participants in the study was 35 years.
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Nov 14, 2023

Mean

The arithmetic average of a set of numbers.
The mean temperature for the week was 75 degrees.
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Nov 14, 2023

Median

Middle number in a range of values, especially in economics.
The median house price in the area indicates affordability.
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Mean

To have an intention or purpose.
She didn't mean to offend you with her comment.
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Median

Divider separating lanes of traffic on a road.
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Mean

Being unkind, spiteful, or unfair.
His mean comments hurt her feelings.
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Median

Point that divides a line segment into two equal parts.
In geometry, the median of a triangle connects a vertex to the midpoint of the opposite side.
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Mean

To convey or represent a particular idea.
In this context, 'green' means environmentally friendly.
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Median

Relating to, located in, or extending toward the middle.
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Mean

Modest or not expensive, often relating to living standards.
They live a mean lifestyle to save money.
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Median

(Anatomy) Of, relating to, or situated in or near the plane that divides a bilaterally symmetrical animal into right and left halves; mesial.
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Mean

To be used to convey; denote
"'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things'" (Lewis Carroll).
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Median

(Statistics) Relating to or constituting the middle value in a distribution.
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Mean

To act as a symbol of; signify or represent
In this poem, the budding flower means youth.
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Median

A median point, plane, line, or part.
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Mean

To intend to convey or indicate
"No one means all he says, and yet very few say all they mean, for words are slippery and thought is viscous" (Henry Adams).
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Median

The dividing area, either paved or landscaped, between opposing lanes of traffic on some highways. Also called regionally boulevard, mall, median strip, meridian, neutral ground.
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Mean

To have as a purpose or an intention; intend
I meant to go running this morning, but I overslept.
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Median

(Statistics) The middle value in a distribution, above and below which lie an equal number of values.
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Mean

To design, intend, or destine for a certain purpose or end
A building that was meant for storage.
A student who was meant to be a scientist.
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Median

A line that joins a vertex of a triangle to the midpoint of the opposite side.
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Mean

To have as a consequence; bring about
Friction means heat.
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Median

The line that joins the midpoints of the nonparallel sides of a trapezoid.
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Mean

To have the importance or value of
The opinions of the critics meant nothing to him. She meant so much to me.
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Median

A central vein or nerve, especially the median vein or median nerve running through the forearm and arm.
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Mean

To have intentions of a specified kind; be disposed
They mean well but lack tact.
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Median

(geometry) A line segment joining the vertex of triangle to the midpoint of the opposing side.
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Mean

Lacking in kindness; unkind
The teacher was not being mean in asking you to be quiet.
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Median

(statistics) A number separating the higher half from the lower half of a data sample, population, or probability distribution. The median of a finite list of numbers can be found by arranging all the observations from lowest value to highest value and picking the middle one (e.g., the median of {3, 3, 5, 9, 11} is 5). If there is an even number of observations, then there is no single middle value; the median is then usually defined to be the mean of the two middle values.
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Oct 19, 2023

Mean

Cruel, spiteful, or malicious
A mean boy who liked to make fun of others.
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Median

(US) The area separating two lanes of opposite-direction traffic; the median strip.
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Mean

Expressing spite or malice
Gave me a mean look.
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Median

(anatomy) Situated in a middle, central, or intermediate part, section, or range of (something).
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Mean

Tending toward or characterized by cruelty or violence
Mean streets.
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Median

In the middle of an organ, structure etc.; towards the median plane of an organ or limb.
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Mean

Extremely unpleasant or disagreeable
The meanest storm in years.
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Median

(statistics) Having the median as its value.
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Mean

Ignoble; base
A mean motive. ].
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Median

Being in the middle; running through the middle; as, a median groove.
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Mean

Occupying a middle or intermediate position between two extremes.
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Median

Situated in the middle; lying in a plane dividing a bilateral animal into right and left halves; - said of unpaired organs and parts; as, median coverts.
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Mean

Intermediate in size, extent, quality, time, or degree; medium.
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Median

A median line or point.
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Mean

Something having a position, quality, or condition midway between extremes; a medium.
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Median

The value below which 50% of the cases fall
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Mean

A number that typifies a set of numbers, such as a geometric mean or an arithmetic mean.
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Median

Relating to or constituting the middle value of an ordered set of values (or the average of the middle two in an even-numbered set);
The median value of 17, 20, and 36 is 20
The median income for the year was $15,000
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Mean

The average value of a set of numbers.
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Median

Dividing an animal into right and left halves
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Mean

(Logic) The middle term in a syllogism.
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Median

Relating to or situated in or extending toward the middle
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Mean

Means (used with a sing. or pl. verb) A method, a course of action, or an instrument by which an act can be accomplished or an end achieved.
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Median

Middle value in an ordered set of numbers.
The median income of the group was $50,000.
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Mean

Money, property, or other wealth
You ought to live within your means.
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Mean

Great wealth
A woman of means.
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Mean

To intend.
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Mean

(transitive) To intend, to plan (to do); to have as one's intention.
I didn't mean to knock your tooth out.
I mean to go to Baddeck this summer.
I meant to take the car in for a smog check, but it slipped my mind.
The authors meant a challenge to the status quo.
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Mean

(intransitive) To have as intentions of a given kind.
Don't be angry; she meant well.
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Mean

To intend (something) for a given purpose or fate; to predestine.
Actually this desk was meant for the subeditor.
Man was not meant to question such things.
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Mean

(transitive) To intend an ensuing comment or statement as an explanation.[https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/i_mean%20I%20mean]
Your reasoning seems needlessly abstruse, complex, and verbose for me. I mean, could you dumb it down for my sake?
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Mean

To convey (a meaning).
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Mean

(transitive) To convey (a given sense); to signify, or indicate (an object or idea).
The sky is red this morning—does that mean we're in for a storm?
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Mean

(transitive) Of a word, symbol etc: to have reference to, to signify.
What does this hieroglyph mean?
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Mean

(transitive) Of a person (or animal etc): to intend to express, to imply, to hint at, to allude.
I'm afraid I don't understand what you mean.
He is a little different, if you know what I mean.
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Mean

(transitive) To have conviction in (something said or expressed); to be sincere in (what one says).
Does she really mean what she said to him last night?
Say what you mean and mean what you say.
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Mean

(transitive) To cause or produce (a given result); to bring about (a given result).
One faltering step means certain death.
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Mean

(usually with to) To be of some level of importance.
That little dog meant everything to me.
Formality and titles mean nothing in their circle.
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Mean

To lament.
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Mean

(obsolete) Common; general.
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Mean

Of a common or low origin, grade, or quality; common; humble.
A man of mean parentage
A mean abode
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Mean

Low in quality or degree; inferior; poor; shabby.
A mean appearance
A mean dress
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Mean

Without dignity of mind; destitute of honour; low-minded; spiritless; base.
A mean motive
It was mean of you to steal that little girl's piggy bank.
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Mean

Of little value or worth; worthy of little or no regard; contemptible; despicable.
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Mean

Ungenerous; stingy; tight-fisted.
He's so mean. I've never seen him spend so much as five pounds on presents for his children.
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Mean

Disobliging; pettily offensive or unaccommodating.
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Mean

Intending to cause harm, successfully or otherwise; bearing ill will towards another.
Watch out for her, she's mean. I said good morning to her, and she punched me in the nose.
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Mean

Powerful; fierce; strong.
It must have been a mean typhoon that levelled this town.
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Mean

(colloquial) Accomplished with great skill; deft; hard to compete with.
Your mother can roll a mean cigarette.
He hits a mean backhand.
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Mean

Difficult, tricky.
This problem is mean!
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Mean

Having the mean (see noun below) as its value; average.
The mean family has 2.4 children.
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Mean

(obsolete) Middling; intermediate; moderately good, tolerable.
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Mean

A method or course of action used to achieve some result.
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Mean

An intermediate step or intermediate steps.
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Mean

Something which is intermediate or in the middle; an intermediate value or range of values; a medium.
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Mean

The middle part of three-part polyphonic music; now specifically, the alto part in polyphonic music; an alto instrument.
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Mean

(statistics) The average of a set of values, calculated by summing them together and dividing by the number of terms; the arithmetic mean.
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Mean

(mathematics) Any function of multiple variables that satisfies certain properties and yields a number representative of its arguments; or, the number so yielded; a measure of central tendency.
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Mean

(mathematics) Either of the two numbers in the middle of a conventionally presented proportion, as 2 and 3 in 1:2=3:6.
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Mean

To have in the mind, as a purpose, intention, etc.; to intend; to purpose; to design; as, what do you mean to do?
What mean ye by this service ?
Ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good.
I am not a SpaniardTo say that it is yours and not to mean it.
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Mean

To signify; to indicate; to import; to denote.
What mean these seven ewe lambs ?
Go ye, and learn what that meaneth.
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Mean

To have a purpose or intention.
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Mean

Destitute of distinction or eminence; common; low; vulgar; humble.
The mean man boweth down, and the great man humbleth himself.
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Mean

Wanting dignity of mind; low-minded; base; destitute of honor; spiritless; as, a mean motive.
Can you imagine I so mean could prove,To save my life by changing of my love ?
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Mean

Of little value or account; worthy of little or no regard; contemptible; despicable.
The Roman legions and great Cæsar foundOur fathers no mean foes.
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Mean

Of poor quality; as, mean fare.
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Mean

Penurious; stingy; close-fisted; illiberal; as, mean hospitality.
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Mean

Occupying a middle position; middle; being about midway between extremes.
Being of middle age and a mean stature.
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Mean

Intermediate in excellence of any kind.
According to the fittest style of lofty, mean, or lowly.
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Mean

Average; having an intermediate value between two extremes, or between the several successive values of a variable quantity during one cycle of variation; as, mean distance; mean motion; mean solar day.
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Mean

That which is mean, or intermediate, between two extremes of place, time, or number; the middle point or place; middle rate or degree; mediocrity; medium; absence of extremes or excess; moderation; measure.
But to speak in a mean, the virtue of prosperity is temperance; the virtue of adversity is fortitude.
There is a mean in all things.
The extremes we have mentioned, between which the wellinstracted Christian holds the mean, are correlatives.
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Mean

A quantity having an intermediate value between several others, from which it is derived, and of which it expresses the resultant value; usually, unless otherwise specified, it is the simple average, formed by adding the quantities together and dividing by their number, which is called an arithmetical mean. A geometrical mean is the nth root of the product of the n quantities being averaged.
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Mean

That through which, or by the help of which, an end is attained; something tending to an object desired; intermediate agency or measure; necessary condition or coagent; instrument.
Their virtuous conversation was a mean to work the conversion of the heathen to Christ.
You may be able, by this mean, to review your own scientific acquirements.
Philosophical doubt is not an end, but a mean.
By this means he had them more at vantage.
What other means is left unto us.
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Mean

Resources; property, revenue, or the like, considered as the condition of easy livelihood, or an instrumentality at command for effecting any purpose; disposable force or substance.
Your means are very slender, and your waste is great.
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Mean

A part, whether alto or tenor, intermediate between the soprano and base; a middle part.
The mean is drowned with your unruly base.
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Mean

Meantime; meanwhile.
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Mean

A mediator; a go-between.
He wooeth her by means and by brokage.
If by any means I might attain to the resurrection of the dead.
The wine on this side of the lake is by no means so good as that on the other.
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Mean

An average of n numbers computed by adding some function of the numbers and dividing by some function of n
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Mean

Mean or intend to express or convey;
You never understand what I mean!
What do his words intend?
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Mean

Have as a logical consequence;
The water shortage means that we have to stop taking long showers
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Mean

Denote or connote;
`maison' means `house' in French
An example sentence would show what this word means
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Mean

Have in mind as a purpose;
I mean no harm
I only meant to help you
She didn't think to harm me
We thought to return early that night
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Mean

Have a specified degree of importance;
My ex-husband means nothing to me
Happiness means everything
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Mean

Intend to refer to;
I'm thinking of good food when I talk about France
Yes, I meant you when I complained about people who gossip!
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Mean

Destine or designate for a certain purpose;
These flowers were meant for you
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Mean

Approximating the statistical norm or average or expected value;
The average income in New England is below that of the nation
Of average height for his age
The mean annual rainfall
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Mean

Characterized by malice;
A hateful thing to do
In a mean mood
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Mean

Having or showing an ignoble lack of honor or morality;
That liberal obedience without which your army would be a base rabble
Taking a mean advantage
Chok'd with ambition of the meaner sort
Something essentially vulgar and meanspirited in politics
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Mean

Excellent;
Famous for a mean backhand
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Mean

Marked by poverty befitting a beggar;
A beggarly existence in the slums
A mean hut
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Mean

Used of persons or behavior; characterized by or indicative of lack of generosity;
A mean person
He left a miserly tip
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Mean

Used of sums of money; so small in amount as to deserve contempt
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Repeatedly Asked Queries

How do you calculate the median?

Median is the middle value in a list of numbers sorted in ascending or descending order.
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What does median signify in statistics?

Median signifies the middle value, dividing a dataset into two equal halves.
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Can mean be negative?

Yes, if the dataset contains negative numbers, the mean can be negative.
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Why use mean instead of median?

Mean is useful for datasets without extreme values, giving a balanced average.
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Is the median always a number in the dataset?

In an odd-sized dataset, yes; in an even-sized dataset, it's the average of the two middle numbers.
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Does the mean provide a clear picture of data distribution?

Not always, as it doesn't account for how data is spread out.
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What is the mean in mathematics?

Mean is the average value obtained by dividing the sum of all values by the number of values.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Nov 18, 2023

Can median and mean be the same?

In symmetric distributions, median and mean can be the same.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Nov 18, 2023

What happens to the median in a bimodal distribution?

The median remains the middle value but may not represent the modes.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Nov 18, 2023

Does the mean consider each data point?

Yes, every value in the dataset influences the mean.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Nov 18, 2023

Is the mean always a value in the dataset?

No, the mean might not be an actual value in the dataset.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Nov 18, 2023

Why can the mean be misleading?

The mean can be misleading in datasets with extreme outliers.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Nov 18, 2023

Does the median get affected by extreme values?

No, the median is less influenced by outliers or extreme values.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Nov 18, 2023

When is it better to use the median?

Median is better for skewed distributions or when there are outliers.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Nov 18, 2023

Is median affected by the scale of measurement?

No, the median is not affected by the scale of measurement.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Nov 18, 2023

Do mean and median always provide useful insights?

They may not provide complete insights alone and are often used with other statistical measures.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Nov 18, 2023

What type of data is unsuitable for mean calculation?

Nominal or categorical data is unsuitable for mean calculation.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Nov 18, 2023

Can both mean and median be zero?

Yes, both can be zero if the data is symmetrically distributed around zero.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Nov 18, 2023

In what scenario is the mean more stable than the median?

The mean is more stable in larger datasets with no significant outliers.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Nov 18, 2023

Can median be used for all types of data?

Median is best used for ordinal or continuous data.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Nov 18, 2023

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About Author
Shumaila Saeed
Written by
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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