: a competition, dispute, or fight open to all comers and usually with no rules : brawl
also : a chaotic situation resembling a free-for-all especially in lacking rules or structure
the press conference deteriorated into a free-for-all
free-for-all adjective

Examples of free-for-all in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web In what was supposed to be a free-for-all in this new age of the transfer portal and name, image and likeness deals, UConn has figured out how to dominate. Houston Mitchell, Los Angeles Times, 9 Apr. 2024 Captain William Kidd, the Scottish privateer sent on a mission in September 1696 to hunt down and destroy pirates, instead joined the free-for-all by seizing the Quedagh Merchant. Sean Kingsley, Smithsonian Magazine, 2 Apr. 2024 Even now, after the city has clamped down on the free-for-all, with a new show of force by the Los Angeles Police Department and some modest cleanup efforts since the end of February, a few artists are still getting onsite and leaving more graffiti on the buildings. Steve Appleford, Rolling Stone, 1 Apr. 2024 Moreno defeated two high-profile candidates in the GOP primary, which was widely seen as a free-for-all before Trump got involved on behalf of Moreno. Rick Klein, ABC News, 19 Mar. 2024 The free-for-all is widely expected to drive commissions down and force many agents out of business. Rachel Lerman, Washington Post, 16 Mar. 2024 Once that fasten seatbelt sign turns off, the aisles can become a free-for-all where passengers try to beat fellow fliers to unload their own luggage from the overhead bins. Natalia Senanayake, Peoplemag, 15 Mar. 2024 The vote came down to something of a free-for-all, with unusual alliances in support of and opposed to the bill. Annie Karni, New York Times, 13 Mar. 2024 Recent hosts have reflected this division with a kind of a free-for-all negativity. Fran Hoepfner, The Atlantic, 10 Mar. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'free-for-all.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1874, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of free-for-all was in 1874

Dictionary Entries Near free-for-all

Cite this Entry

“Free-for-all.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


: a competition or fight open to all comers usually without rules
free-for-all adjective

More from Merriam-Webster on free-for-all

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