mayhem

noun

plural mayhems
1
: needless or willful damage or violence
movies filled with murder and mayhem
2
a
: willful and permanent deprivation of a body part resulting in the impairment of a person's fighting ability
b
: willful and permanent disabling, 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; the English verb maim comes from the same ancestor. The disfigurement sense of mayhem 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 On March 29, 2013, Keen was sentenced to 25 years for a conviction of mayhem in Riverside County. Rosalio Ahumada, Sacramento Bee, 12 Apr. 2024 In fact, while Angus sought funding for their project, Caceres was targeting another foreign adversary to show the full extent of the cyber mayhem a small team could inflict. Andy Greenberg, WIRED, 4 Apr. 2024 The bizarre casting and bad CGI don’t help, but the film’s biggest flaw is that director Roland Emmerich fails to understand what people do like about Godzilla, turning the concept into just another disaster movie with none of the monster mayhem fans love. Katie Rife, EW.com, 28 Mar. 2024 His wild guitar and back-up vocals add the right touch of electric mayhem, while the band adds flourishes of banjo and pedal steel. Rob Sheffield, Rolling Stone, 21 Mar. 2024 Looks to be an interesting stew of cowboy action, robot mayhem, and kooky world-building. Vogue, 21 Mar. 2024 Because there's more people of good than people of mayhem. Nbc Universal, NBC News, 17 Mar. 2024 Palacios recommends avoiding the general boarding mayhem by getting a credit card or earning elite status. Christopher Elliott, USA TODAY, 29 Mar. 2024 The mayhem started long before the 9:30 a.m. opening of the doors. Holly Gleason, Variety, 17 Mar. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'mayhem.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

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

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2a

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

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Cite this Entry

“Mayhem.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mayhem. Accessed 16 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition

mayhem

noun
1
: deliberate permanent crippling or injury of any part of the body
2
: needless or willful damage or violence

Medical Definition

mayhem

noun
: 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

Legal Definition

mayhem

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

Etymology

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

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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