"course of action," late 14c., from mean (n.); sense of "wealth, resources at one's disposal for accomplishing some object" is recorded by c. 1600. Compare French moyens, German Mittel. Phrase by no means is attested from late 15c. Man of means is from 1620s. Means-test "official inquiry into the private resources of an applicant for public funds" is from 1930.