mean streak: meaning and explanation

If someone has a mean streak or a nasty streak, it means that there is an unpleasant or unfriendly aspect to their personality.

In general they could be quite friendly, but at times they have a tendency to be unkind or horrible. e.g. He was a lovely child, but unfortunately he has developed a bit of a mean streak since becoming a teenager.

We can adapt this phrase for other aspects of someone’s personality – usually negative ones (e.g. a competitive streak, a stubborn streak). e.g. I try and avoid playing board games. I’ve got a real competitive streak and I can become quite unpleasant.

Have a go at these micro-dictation exercises to hear this expression being used in context – how much can you understand?

Listening exercises

Micro-listening #1

Accent: Northern England

, .
really nice , he's a bit of .

About the sentence

…he’s also got a bit of a mean streak…

Notice the pronunciation of ‘got’ – the ‘t’ sound is ‘dropped’ and pronounced as a ‘glottal stop’ which can make the word hard to identify. If you’re interested in what people think about the glottal stop and why it is often (unfairly) criticised, have a look at this article.

Micro-listening #2

Accent: Ireland

Michael ? .

Michael always ? He's real .

About the sentence

…so horrible…

Horrible is an extreme adjective meaning very bad or unpleasant. e.g. This coffee tastes horrible – I think i’ll make a fresh cup.

Extra practice

Here are some questions/links to help you learn the new vocabulary:

  • Do you know anyone who has a bit of a mean streak?
  • Would you say that you have a nasty streak? Has anyone ever told you this?