mayhem

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

Definition of mayhem

1 : needless or willful damage or violence movies filled with murder and mayhem
2a : 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

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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 Evidence emerged during the trial about what Mr. Trump was doing during those hours, including new details about two phone calls with lawmakers that prosecutors said clearly alerted the president to the mayhem on Capitol Hill. New York Times, "After the Speech: What Trump Did as the Capitol Was Attacked," 13 Feb. 2021 Five people lost their lives, countless others were injured, and as of Thursday, about 70 people have been arrested in connection to the mayhem. Mike Brest, Washington Examiner, "White House trade adviser says impeachment was 'violence to this country'," 14 Jan. 2021 Though many involved Wednesday in Washington were Trump supporters without designs on violence, the visuals illustrate that some were clearly there to summon mayhem if not outright bloodshed. Jake Coyle, Star Tribune, "A theater of propaganda: The Capitol, cameras and selfies," 11 Jan. 2021 The result was the premature ending of Reconstruction in 1876 and the onset of murder and mayhem directed against blacks, followed by the establishment of the system of Jim Crow segregation, which has scarred our contemporary history to this day. WSJ, "‘With Malice Toward None’ Worked Badly for Blacks," 24 Jan. 2021 Five people, including a Capitol Police officer, died in the mayhem, and the House impeached Trump a week later, with 10 Republicans joining all Democrats in support. Tim Darnell, ajc, "Second Trump impeachment trial could begin Tuesday in Senate," 22 Jan. 2021 Five people, including a Capitol Police officer, died in the mayhem, and the House impeached Trump a week later, with 10 Republicans joining all Democrats in support. Mary Clare Jalonick, Anchorage Daily News, "House to send impeachment article against Trump to Senate on Monday," 22 Jan. 2021 Five people, including a Capitol Police officer, died in the mayhem, and the House impeached Trump a week later on the charge of incitement of insurrection. Carlie Wells, NOLA.com, "Rouses co-owner apologizes for attending Trump rally, 'very poor judgment' in WBOK interview," 22 Jan. 2021 In October, Lacey Ana Mazzarella, 35, pleaded no contest to one count of voluntary manslaughter, mayhem and child abuse resulting in death. Los Angeles Times, "Mother sentenced to more than 14 years for toddler’s death in a hot car," 14 Jan. 2021

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 2a

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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Time Traveler for mayhem

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for mayhem

Last Updated

23 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Mayhem.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mayhem. Accessed 3 Mar. 2021.

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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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