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 city seemed determined to avoid a repeat of that melee. Washington Post, 31 Aug. 2021 Officers arrived in the middle of a melee outside the house, and one of them fatally shot Ja’Niah’s 16-year-old sister, Ma’Khia Bryant, who was lunging at one of the women, brandishing a steak knife. New York Times, 8 May 2021 In East Portland on Monday, a mostly working-class neighborhood, residents and employees of businesses damaged in the melee were out cleaning up. Washington Post, 23 Aug. 2021 Seven people died in the melee, including a number who fell from a plane that was taking off and another in the landing-gear area. Marcus Yam, Los Angeles Times, 17 Aug. 2021 In the melee, counterprotesters could be seen spraying mace while members of the anti-vaccine rally screamed death threats. al, 14 Aug. 2021 Shadebinder Warlock now has worse player tracking on its freeze melee. Paul Tassi, Forbes, 28 May 2021 At the time of the melee, Silva-Prentice was assigned to the P2 unit at Souza, walled off from the mayhem., 14 Aug. 2021 The new House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol building holds its first hearing Tuesday with graphic video and firsthand accounts of the melee from four U.S. Capitol Police and Metropolitan Police Department officers. Sarah D. Wire, Los Angeles Times, 27 July 2021

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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Dictionary Entries Near melee

M electron


melegueta pepper

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Statistics for melee

Last Updated

18 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Melee.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Sep. 2021.

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More Definitions for melee



English Language Learners Definition of melee

: a confused struggle or fight involving many people

More from Merriam-Webster on melee

Nglish: Translation of melee for Spanish Speakers

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


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