me·​lee | \ ˈmā-ˌlā How to pronounce melee (audio) , mā-ˈlā\
variants: or less commonly mêlée

Definition of melee

: a confused struggle especially : a hand-to-hand fight among several people They were seriously injured in the melee.

Keep scrolling for more

Melee Has French Roots

Fray, "donnybrook," "brawl," "fracas": there are many English words for confused and noisy fights, and in the 17th century "melee" was thrown into the mix. It comes from the French melee, which in turn comes from the Old French meslee, meaning "mixture." "Meslee" comes from the Old French verb mesler, or "medler," which means "to mix." This verb is also the source of "medley" ("a mixture or hodgepodge") and "meddle" ("to mix oneself in others' affairs" or "to interfere").

Examples of melee in a Sentence

a verbal disagreement at the football game soon turned into a general melee involving scores of spectators

Recent Examples on the Web

Overall, at least six people were arrested in the melee. Jennifer Peltz, Twin Cities, "Stories of Stonewall: How the LGBTQ rebellion left a legacy," 24 June 2019 Five men have been cited by police for disorderly conduct Two people involved in the melee are employees of the Denver Public Works Department and have been suspended as the police investigation continues, KUSA reported. NBC News, "13-year-old umpire says adult brawl at kids' baseball game sparked by his warning to behave," 21 June 2019 Cruz’s office said two other stabbing victims involved in the melee had survived. Travis Andersen,, "Man gets 10 to 12 years for fatal stabbing of teen at Brockton park," 18 June 2019 Eighty people were reported injured in the melee, including 22 officers. David Pierson,, "Once known as ‘Asia’s finest,’ Hong Kong police now stand accused of brutality," 20 June 2019 In the melee that followed, police beat the refugees and fired tear gas at them. Nicolas Niarchos, The New Yorker, "On a Greek Island That Welcomed Migrants, Residents and Refugees Feel Abandoned," 13 June 2019 After the fight, Nurmagomedov and McGregor got into a melee, and the Nevada State Athletic Commission handed Nurmagomedov a nine-month suspension for it. Jenna West,, "Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Dustin Poirier Set For Sept. 7 at UFC 242," 4 June 2019 Boss battles combine web-slinging and melee for some of the most incredible action this console generation. Sam Machkovech, Ars Technica, "Spider-Man PS4 review: Does whatever a spider can—and then some," 4 Sep. 2018 Teammates and coaches from both sides rushed into the melee to break it up. Ryan Gaydos, Fox News, "Texans star DeAndre Hopkins, 49ers defensive back Jimmie Ward fight at joint practice," 15 Aug. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'melee.' 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 melee

circa 1648, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for melee

French mêlée, from Old French meslee, from mesler to mix — more at meddle

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about melee

Listen to Our Podcast about melee

Statistics for melee

Last Updated

8 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for melee

The first known use of melee was circa 1648

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for melee



English Language Learners Definition of melee

: a confused struggle or fight involving many people

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on melee

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with melee

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for melee

Spanish Central: Translation of melee

Nglish: Translation of melee for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of melee for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about melee

Comments on melee

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


having no luck

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

What's that Smell?! Quiz

  • wide eyed dog smelling rose
  • Someone who is hircine smells like a:
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Dictionary Devil

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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