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

Keep scrolling for more

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

In the aftermath of the second Iraq war and the fall of the Hussein regime, the general mayhem reached the Bentley and the car was mutilated by several bullet holes and even received some axe wounds. Fox News, "1958 Bentley stolen by Saddam Hussein and destroyed in Iraq War restored in USA," 3 Aug. 2018 That’s also what’s so poignant about this season, particularly after coming off the mayhem resulting from the riot. Candice Frederick, Teen Vogue, ""Orange is the New Black" Season 6 Has the Women Striving for Peace and Community More Than Ever," 27 July 2018 In a week that could be described as fashion mayhem, Diane von Furstenberg offered a fleeting refuge from it all. Mai Morsch, Vogue, "The Fashion Week Weary Found Refuge at DVF's Botanical Oasis," 11 Feb. 2019 What makes Smash so unique, of course, is that added dash of mayhem. Andrew Webster, The Verge, "Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the complete package," 6 Dec. 2018 Two weeks of mayhem — a tumult of historic upsets, buzzer-beaters and at least one celebrity nun — have brought the 2018 NCAA tournament to a crossroads. David Wharton, latimes.com, "Final Four in San Antonio will be a mix of traditional powers and one amazing upstart," 26 Mar. 2018 When stocks opened for trading Friday, some investors were optimistic that the mayhem of earlier in the week had calmed. Corrie Driebusch And Riva Gold, WSJ, "U.S. Stocks End Week With a Slide," 7 Dec. 2018 Riding the wave of political will inspired by Parkland and feeling revolted by the mayhem of Las Vegas, 10 states in the past year have banned bump stocks. Matt Vasilogambros, The Seattle Times, "After Florida school massacre, states pass 50 new gun-control laws," 6 Aug. 2018 In the late nineteen-seventies, the political mayhem of the Communist Party had left China with a per-capita income a third that of sub-Saharan Africa. Evan Osnos, The New Yorker, "Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un’s Nuclear Summit and the Bid for History," 8 Sep. 2017

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about mayhem

Listen to Our Podcast about mayhem

Dictionary Entries near mayhem

mayhap

mayhappen

mayhaw

mayhem

may I just say

maying

Maykop

Statistics for mayhem

Last Updated

5 Mar 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for mayhem

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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

Comments on mayhem

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

WORD OF THE DAY

grandiloquent, ostentatious, or bombastic

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Original Meanings Quiz

  • rembrandt-painting-a-young-scholar-and-his-tutor
  • Which of the following is the earliest known sense of the word awe?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

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

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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