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I understand the the core difference between "heißen" and the other verbs (given the fact that most of the time it means "to be called/named"), however I fail to understand the difference among them when all of them mean "to mean" when translated into English.

I came across this sentence and, although I understand it, I just cannot figure out when to use such verbs generally.

Nur weil du es gut gelesen hast, heißt das nicht, dass du weißt, was der Autor meint / was es dem Autor bedeutet hat.

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meinen

This verb has two main meanings. One is simply "to opine", "to express the opinion" (ich meine, dass es eine gute Idee wäre, nach Hause zu gehen), but this is relatively rare.

The most common meaning is "to intend to express a specific meaning". "Was hast du damit gemeint?" = "What did you mean by that?", i.e. "What meaning did you intend to express by that?"; this also covers things like "das war nicht so gemeint" = "that was not intended like that". The subject of this must be a person.

Some people use this verb also like "was meint dieses Wort?" = "what does this word mean?". I notice that Wiktionary contains this use, but Duden does not. This strikes me as an anglicism that should not be used, although it will probably be understood.

bedeuten

This is the verb you are looking for if you want to express "what does this word mean?" = "was bedeutet dieses Wort?". The subject of this is some expression or text, the object is its meaning. "Dieser Gesetzestext bedeutet, dass das Radfahren am Gehsteig verboten ist." = "This statutory text means that cycling on the sidewalk is prohibited."

Another meaning is "to have a subjective value". "Das bedeutet mir sehr viel" = "This means very much to me".

heißen

This mainly means "to be called", "to have the name". "Wie heißt du?" = "What is your name?".

It can also be used in the same meaning as "bedeuten" in the sense of "have the meaning".

Another very archaic use is to use it in place of "nennen".

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  • Thank you so much for your detailed explanation. It's helped me a lot.
    – Kevin
    May 24, 2023 at 21:14

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