hot mess


Definition of hot mess

1 informal : something or someone that is emphatically a mess: such as
a : something in a state of extreme disorder or disarray
  • … I'd started recording with studio musicians and it sounded terrible, like I was just trying to re-create these old ballads. It was a hot mess. I realized that if I kept working on my own, I was going to come up with some cornball record that I'd never buy.
  • —Scarlett Johanssonquoted in SpinMay 2008
b : a disorganized, disheveled, or self-destructive person
  • She's a hard-drinking hot mess who scavenges the streets for castoff furniture and clothing that she spruces up and sometimes sells; how she survives in contemporary Los Angeles is one of the movie's biggest mysteries.
  • —Sheri LindennLos Angeles Times7 Nov. 2014
; also : such a person who is at the same time attractive or sexy
  • … Everett actually is a hot mess when she performs. Her stage presence is erotic and chaotic, her big blond body wrapped in something low-cut and sheer. She'll spit a drink at an audience, rub her tits in someone's face, and/or pour wax on her chest …
  • —Molly AdamsChicago Reader4 Sept. 2014
a archaic : a hot dish especially of soft or pulpy food
  • … there was a stove over which our guides made a hot mess of flour and water which passed for soup.
  • —Edwin Swift BalchAppalachia1898
b : a hot mixture of ingredients cooked or eaten together
  • A.G. Gilbert's plan is to “Throw all waste of the kitchen, in the shape of meat scraps, pieces of bread, uneaten vegetables, etc., into a pot; heat up in the morning, till nearly boiling, and then mix bran, shorts, or whatever is most abundant or cheap, with the hot mess, dusting in a small quantity of red pepper before mixing. Let the mixture stand for a few minutes, until the meal is nearly cooked.”
  • —Franklane L. Sewell and Ida E. TilsonThe Poultry Herald Manual: A Guide to Successful Poultry Keeping1898

There's more!

Love words? You must — there are over 200,000 words in our free online dictionary, but you are looking for one that’s only in the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary.

Start your free trial today and get unlimited access to America's largest dictionary, with:

  • More than 250,000 words that aren't in our free dictionary
  • Expanded definitions, etymologies, and usage notes
  • Advanced search features
  • Ad free!
Already a subscriber? Log in.

First Known Use of hot mess

circa 1772

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up hot mess? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!


to lessen the seriousness or strength of

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

What's That From? A Word Origin Quiz

  • turris-babel-by-athanasius-kircher
  • What language gave the word robot to English?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!