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.

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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 Reports on social media had portrayed the incident as something approaching a melee, which wasn’t the case, Mitchell said. Mike Nolan,, "Hearing set on Orland Park’s move to revoke Sky Zone’s business license after recent disturbance," 22 Sep. 2020 After a melee that left two dead, Mr. Rittenhouse was charged in connection to two homicides. Katie Benner, New York Times, "Justice Dept. Charges 2 With Trying to Support Hamas," 4 Sep. 2020 Late Tuesday night a group of the vigilantes clashed with protesters in a wild melee in which two protesters died from gunfire and another was wounded. Noah Robertson, The Christian Science Monitor, "America the fearful: What follows summer of unrest?," 28 Aug. 2020 Five players were handed misconducts in the melee: Pageau and teammate Cal Clutterbuck, plus the Lightning's Kucherov, Mikhail Sergachev and Victor Hedman. Mike Brehm, USA TODAY, "Islanders, Lightning mix it up as New York pulls out gutsy 5-3 victory in Game 3," 12 Sep. 2020 One person was shot and killed during the melee; police have not shared any details on the victim or suspect. TheWeek, "Biden condemns 'violence of every kind by anyone,' urges Trump to do the same," 31 Aug. 2020 Chevy avoided the melee by going four-wide at the top of Turn 1. Edgar Thompson,, "NASCAR icon Jimmie Johnson leaves Daytona disappointed after late crash ends his season," 30 Aug. 2020 William Byron snaked his way through a smoky crash late Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway and narrowly avoided another melee a few laps later. Mark Long,, "Byron wins to reach NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, knocks out Johnson," 29 Aug. 2020 According to several media accounts, Bundy was part of a group that squared off with police in the Capitol lobby where a glass door shattered in the melee. Robert Anglen, The Arizona Republic, "Ammon Bundy's new anti-government standoff: Mask mandates and quarantines," 28 Aug. 2020

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.

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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

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Time Traveler for melee

Time Traveler

The first known use of melee was circa 1648

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Last Updated

29 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Melee.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Sep. 2020.

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More Definitions for melee


How to pronounce melee (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of melee

: a confused struggle or fight involving many people

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