mayhem

noun
may·​hem | \ ˈmā-ˌhem How to pronounce mayhem (audio) , ˈmā-əm How to pronounce mayhem (audio) \

Definition of mayhem

1a : willful and permanent deprivation of a bodily member resulting in the impairment of a person's fighting ability
b : willful and permanent crippling, mutilation, or disfigurement of any part of the body
2 : needless or willful damage or violence movies filled with murder and mayhem

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Mayhem Has Legal Roots

Legally speaking, mayhem refers to the gruesome crime of deliberately causing an injury that permanently disfigures another. The name derives via Middle English from the Anglo-French verb maheimer ("to maim") and is probably of Germanic origin; our own verb "to maim" comes from the same ancestor. The disfigurement sense first appeared in English in the 15th century. By the 19th century the word had come to mean any kind of violent behavior; nowadays, "mayhem" can be used to suggest any kind of chaos or disorder, as in, "there was mayhem in the streets during the citywide blackout."

Examples of mayhem in a Sentence

movies filled with murder and mayhem a criminal who escaped from prison and caused mayhem

Recent Examples on the Web

All the elements are there: political mayhem, the extreme gap between rich and poor, seriously violent riots in the street. Vogue, "Vogue Runway’s Critics Weigh In on the Fall 2019 Menswear Collections—And the Seismic Shifts Changing the Business," 22 Jan. 2019 Passengers aboard that flight have since come forward with their own eyewitness accounts suggesting the flight was anything but normal, with a sharp drop in altitude causing mayhem inside the cabin. Barbara S. Peterson, Popular Mechanics, "Lion Air 610 Had the Same Problem Four Flights in a Row Before It Crashed," 5 Nov. 2018 More: Review: HBO's ‘Westworld’ is smarter, faster, stronger in Season 2 (Photo: Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY) Season 2 opens brimming with mayhem after the murder of Ford (played by Anthony Hopkins in Season 1). Bill Keveney, USA TODAY, "'Westworld' androids embrace their humanity, if not humans, amid Season 2 chaos," 19 Apr. 2018 The mayhem in Charlottesville prompted many internet platforms to crack down on online hate. Michael Kunzelman, The Seattle Times, "Website used by suspect in synagogue massacre is back online," 7 Nov. 2018 Such a scenario reflects chaos and mayhem in Washington. Chad Pergram, Fox News, "Government shutdown threat greets Senate's return to DC," 15 Aug. 2018 Image Even with all the rising measures of mayhem in Afghanistan’s long war — civilian casualties, suicide bombings and refugees, to name a few — the number of children out of school had been falling. New York Times, "More Afghan Children Are Out of School, Reversing a Trend," 4 June 2018 No wonder Trump was so slow to anger his big-money sponsors by making a public condemnation of the mayhem in Florida. Will Bunch, Philly.com, "You can stop the anti-American hate group behind the Florida massacre | Will Bunch," 15 Feb. 2018 Where the old magic VTEC Hondas spun to 8,000—or even 9,000 (in the initial-series S2000 roadster)—and made musical mayhem in the process, the new Type R is an orchestral shadow, comparatively. Jim Resnick, Ars Technica, "America finally gets Honda’s best: The 2018 Civic Type R," 22 Jan. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'mayhem.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of mayhem

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for mayhem

Middle English mayme, mahaime, from Anglo-French mahaim mutilation, mayhem, from maheimer, mahaigner to maim, probably of Germanic origin; akin to Middle High German meiden gelding, Old Norse meitha to injure

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Dictionary Entries near mayhem

mayhap

mayhappen

mayhaw

mayhem

may I just say

maying

Maykop

Statistics for mayhem

Last Updated

16 Apr 2019

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Time Traveler for mayhem

The first known use of mayhem was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for mayhem

mayhem

noun

English Language Learners Definition of mayhem

: actions that hurt people and destroy things : a scene or situation that involves a lot of violence

mayhem

noun
may·​hem | \ ˈmā-ˌhem How to pronounce mayhem (audio) , ˈmā-əm How to pronounce mayhem (audio) \

Medical Definition of mayhem

: willful and permanent crippling, mutilation, or disfiguring of any part of another's body also : the crime of engaging in mayhem physicians, accused…of sterilizing her through trickery, were ordered held for trial on charges of conspiracy to commit mayhem Associated Press

mayhem

noun
may·​hem | \ ˈmā-ˌhem, -əm How to pronounce mayhem (audio) \

Legal Definition of mayhem

: willful and permanent crippling, mutilation, or disfigurement of any part of another's body also : the crime of engaging in mayhem

Note: Under the Model Penal Code and the codes of the states that follow it, mayhem is encompassed by assault and aggravated assault.

History and Etymology for mayhem

Anglo-French mahaim mahain, literally, mutilation, from Old French mahain, from mahaignier to injure, mutilate

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More from Merriam-Webster on mayhem

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with mayhem

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for mayhem

Spanish Central: Translation of mayhem

Nglish: Translation of mayhem for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of mayhem for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about mayhem

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