たいていの英語で書かれた意味論の教科書は，意味の意味を考える第一歩として，英語の mean という動詞を用いた様々な例文を挙げることで始まる．例えば，Hofmann (1--2) では，次のような例文が提示される．
・ What did she mean by winking like that?
・ That nasal accent means he comes from Chicago.
・ How she feels means a lot to me.
・ Who do you mean to refer to by that?
・ Who do you mean by 'that guy with an earring'?
・ What does the word teacher mean?
・ What do you mean by freedom?
Crystal (187) でも，次のように mean の多義性が導入されている．
・ 'intend' --- I mean to visit Jane next week.
・ 'indicate' --- A red signal means stop.
・ 'refer to' --- What does 'telemetry' mean?
・ 'have significance' --- What does global warming mean?
・ 'convey' --- What does the name McGough mean to you?
ここでは，それぞれ意図，示唆，重要性，指示，語義，定義などと言い表すことができるような語義で，mean が用いられている．また，英語辞書で mean を調べると，辞書によって語義分類に差異が見られるものの，複数の語義が挙げられているのが普通である．日本語の「意味する」もおよそ同様に広い使い方ができるので，mean とほぼ同じ問題を扱っているととらえてよい．
Ogden and Richards (186--87) は，The Meaning of Meaning の中で，意味の意味（として古今東西採用されてきたもの）を16に分類している．以下に整理しよう．
A I An Intrinsic property. II A unique unanalysable Relation to other things. B III The other words annexed to a word in the Dictionary. IV The Connotation of a word. V An Essence. VI An activity Projected into an object. VII (a) An event Intended. (b) A Volition. VIII The Place of anything in a system. IX The Practical Consequences of a thing in our future experience. X The Theoretical consequences involved in or implied by a statement. XI Emotion aroused by anything. C XII That which is Actually related to a sign by a chosen relation. XIII (a) The Mnemic effects of a stimulus. Associations acquired. (b) Some other occurrence to which the mnemic effects of any occurrence are Appropriate. (c) That which a sign is Interpreted as being of. (d) What anything Suggests. (In the case of Symbols.) That to which the User of a Symbol actually refers. XIV That to which the user of a symbol Ought to be referring. XV That to which the user of a symbol Believes himself to be referring. XVI That to which the Interpreter of a symbol (a) Refers. (b) Believes himself to be referring. (c) Believes the User to be referring.
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