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

The judge said Davis had no reason to strike Harris with a stick and could have easily just walked away from the melee. Ian Shapira, Washington Post, "Fourth attacker sentenced in Charlottesville parking garage beating of black man," 27 Aug. 2019 The original SoR games made players trade health for a special attack, but any SoR4 fighter who can pull off a clean, uninterrupted melee combo after doling out a special will get that lost chunk of health back. Sam Machkovech, Ars Technica, "PAX hands-on: Retro sequels Streets of Rage 4, Windjammers 2 take us back to ‘94," 1 Sep. 2018 The Nevada State Athletic Commission suspended both Nurmagomedov and McGregor last fall during its investigation into the post-fight melee between the two fighters' camps at the conclusion of their bout. Emily Caron,, "Dana White Knew About Conor McGregor's April Bar Incident," 16 Aug. 2019 But there’s more to the story, documents examined by The Times show, including allegations of a violent melee at Hussle’s store. Los Angeles Times, "Newsletter: Today: The economic toll of Trump’s green-card rules," 13 Aug. 2019 Prosecutors in the District on Friday dropped the most serious criminal charge filed against a California man whose burning of two American flags outside the White House on the Fourth of July sparked a melee between ideologically opposed groups. Washington Post, "Activist at center of landmark case allowing flag burning faces charges after melee in front of White House," 5 July 2019 Cardi, whose real name Belcalis Almanzar, was arrested and charged last October with multiple misdemeanor counts stemming from an early morning melee at Angels Gentlemen's Club in Queens in August. Anika Reed, USA TODAY, "Cardi B indicted by grand jury in NY court following strip club brawl legal woes," 21 June 2019 Andrea Robinson’s husband, Daman Petrie, also was charged in the melee. Los Angeles Times, "Three family members charged in brawl at Disneyland that was caught on video," 23 July 2019 The result was an all-out melee involving several dozen people. Jack Mccallum,, "Remembering Action Park, America's Most Dangerous, Daring Water Park," 1 July 2019

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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Last Updated

2 Sep 2019

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Time Traveler for melee

The first known use of melee was circa 1648

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More Definitions for melee



English Language Learners Definition of melee

: a confused struggle or fight involving many people

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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).


readily or continually undergoing change

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