mayhem

noun
may·​hem | \ˈmā-ˌhem, ˈmā-əm \

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

Once the major players are on the field, mayhem ensues, as some youngsters form tenuous alliances, while others try to figure out if there’s a way to subvert the system before their former friends stab, shoot, or poison them. Noel Murray, The Verge, "The First Purge’s release makes this a good weekend to watch Battle Royale on Netflix," 6 July 2018 Yet then everything started dissolving into mayhem. Martin Rogers, USA TODAY, "Cristiano Ronaldo's missed penalty costs Portugal – and could haunt it forever," 25 June 2018 The opening of the sport salmon season detonated with wide-open fishing mayhem and limit catches out of the Golden Gate. Tom Stienstra, SFChronicle.com, "Salmon season opens with limit catches for just about everyone," 18 June 2018 While Washington has long ago grown numb to Trump’s unrelenting mayhem, the president’s two days of undulations in Brussels, rolling between enraged criticism and boastful, happy proclamations, left many leaders feeling queasy. James Hohmann, Washington Post, "The Daily 202: GOP candidates caught in a bind on Medicaid," 13 July 2018 What that news coverage doesn’t capture is the mayhem, destruction, and loss of life, which is why people can simply root for their onscreen hero. Alissa Wilkinson, Vox, "Watching Skyscraper is like watching someone play a video game starring The Rock," 11 July 2018 In late April, assistant transportation commissioner Sean Wiedel shared a Guardian article with colleagues about San Francisco scooter mayhem, including crashes, tripping injuries, and a cease-and-desist order from the city. John Greenfield, Chicago Reader, "Cycling / News / Transportation Electric scooters could be next to clog Chicago’s sidewalks and bike lanes," 25 June 2018 Pratt brings a wry derring-do to the mayhem, and the escape from Isla Nublar has its modicum of thrills. Peter Rainer, The Christian Science Monitor, "'Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom' is the latest and arguably least of the series," 22 June 2018 The clip also features a lesbian couple in the midst of the mayhem, sharing a sweet kiss toward the end of the video. Gary Graff, Billboard, "Mayday Parade Are 'Angry' But 'Hopeful' In New Video for Upcoming 'Sunnyland' Album: Premiere," 31 May 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

12 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

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, ˈmā-əm \

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 \

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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