melee

noun

me·​lee ˈmā-ˌlā How to pronounce melee (audio)
mā-ˈlā
variants or less commonly mêlée
: a confused struggle
especially : a hand-to-hand fight among several people
They were seriously injured in the melee.

Did you know?

Melee Has French Roots

English has no shortage of words for confused and noisy fights, some (fray, brawl, scrap) more common than others (donnybrook, fracas). Melee tends to be encountered more often in written rather than spoken English, but it is far from obscure, and has seen increasing use especially in the context of video games featuring some form of hand-to-hand combat. Such games allow players to mix it up with all manner of rivals and baddies from the comfort and safety of their home, with mix being an especially apt word alongside melee: the latter comes from the French word mêlée, which in turn comes from the Old French verb mesler, meaning "to mix."

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 Six people were shot in the melee, including the two police officers, and all were taken to local area hospitals by emergency services. Cara Tabachnick, CBS News, 1 June 2024 What was really on display in that congressional melee was the contrast between black street-culture posturing (Crockett’s vulgarity), white southernism (Greene’s tough belle), and white northern-socialist linguistic appropriation (Cortez’s ethnic-slang pretense). Armond White, National Review, 22 May 2024 As crew members got involved in the melee, another video shared on social media by NASCAR shows Busch swinging at a man who appeared to be trying to separate him from Stenhouse. CBS News, 20 May 2024 Video of the melee appeared to show punches being thrown, a curtain in the chamber being ripped and a lawmaker who was crawling over other members falling on his head. Brie Stimson, Fox News, 17 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for melee 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'melee.' 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

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

First Known Use

circa 1648, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of melee was circa 1648

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Cite this Entry

“Melee.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/melee. Accessed 21 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition

melee

noun
me·​lee ˈmā-ˌlā How to pronounce melee (audio)
mā-ˈlā
: a confused struggle
especially : a hand-to-hand fight among several people

More from Merriam-Webster on melee

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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