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Is there a difference between the following sentences:

What does hydrophobic mean?
What means hydrophobic?
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The second sentence is not a natural or grammatical way of asking the usual question about the meaning of the word (as is asked by the first sentence). It initially reads like a mistake, especially in juxtaposition with the first, but I guess it is theoretically possible in a less usual sense of asking which other word(s) (e.g. from a list) mean the same as "hydrophobic".
Thank you GPY, I never knew the difference. Could you give an example where it's appropriate to say "what means ..."? I suppose you can say "what means ..." if you don't ask about a literal meaning, such as "what means life", is that better?
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In "ordinary" English, "What means X?" is never correct as a straightforward question about the meaning of X. It is asking what other thing means X (less common).

I suppose "What means X?" might rarely be used as a deliberately stylised way of asking "What does X mean?", e.g. in a poem.
So would it be acceptable to ask "what means life?". The answer could be "it means joy". In that case, I asked what other thing means life. Is that correct?
geoyo Is there a difference between the following sentences:What does hydrophobic mean?What means hydrophobic?
Another country heard from.

Here's my take on it.

The first one is correct. The second one is wrong.

CJ
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GPYa less usual sense of asking which other word(s) (e.g. from a list) mean the same as "hydrophobic".
Gosh! In that case I'd say Which one (of these) means "hydrophobic"?

CJ
CalifJimGosh! In that case I'd say Which one (of these) means "hydrophobic"?
I agree that is usual, but nevertheless I maintain that "What means hydrophobic?" is "theoretically possible" as I initially said, along with the other caveats that you chose not to quote.
geoyoSo would it be acceptable to ask "what means life?". The answer could be "it means joy". In that case, I asked what other thing means life. Is that correct?
"It means joy" (= "Life means joy") is an answer to "What does life mean?".

"Joy means life" could in theory be an answer to the question "What means life?", but it is unusual. Almost always you will want to say "What does ... mean?" rather than the other way around.
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