me·​lee | \ˈmā-ˌlā, mā-ˈ\
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

That week police viewed film of the melee and came up with a strategy for the following weekend, mapped out by Col. Will Higgins, Indianapolis Star, "Indy 500 Snake Pit: Back when giant billy clubs and tear gas couldn't tame the party," 23 May 2018 The melee was sparked by a disagreement over leadership elections. Vic Ryckaert, Indianapolis Star, "18 people to be charged with misdemeanors in Sikh temple brawl," 2 July 2018 About 1,000 people were at the show at the Roebling Wire Works warehouse early on the morning of June 18 when the shooting began and the place descended into a melee. Robert Moran,, "'Shots fired! Shots fired! … Everybody out!' Terror and chaos at Trenton arts festival," 27 June 2018 The new spate of bombings comes just ahead of the holy Islamic month of Ramadan, and follows a melee at a detention center near Jakarta last week in which jailed Muslim extremists killed six officers. Washington Post, "Family photo becomes new picture of militancy in Indonesia," 15 May 2018 Fletcher, bearing a scar from Christian's knife, attended Sunday's gatherings, but stayed far from the melees. The Oregonian/oregonlive,, "Clashing protesters draw blood, block traffic in downtown Portland," 3 June 2018 McGregor crashed the event with an entourage of about about 30 people and incited a backstage melee by chucking a barricade at a large vehicle carrying fighters from the event, injuring one fighter, Michael Chiesa., "Connor McGregor goes on rampage at UFC 223 event," 6 Apr. 2018 The melee escalated not long after as more players, other officials and adults continued to break up the brawl. Alexandria Alejandro, Houston Chronicle, "Basketball game involving Houston team erupts into all-out brawl with refs, players," 10 July 2018 During the melee, rioters broke windows, hurled objects at police, and set a limo afire, among other actions, causing more than $100,000 in damage to public and private property, prosecutors said. Doug Stanglin, USA TODAY, "Feds drop charges against final 38 defendants over inauguration-day riots," 6 July 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.

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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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Statistics for melee

Last Updated

11 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for melee

The first known use of melee was circa 1648

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English Language Learners Definition of melee

: a confused struggle or fight involving many people

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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).


playful or foolish behavior

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