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

In that melee, Bishop Silvio Báez, auxiliary bishop of Managua, was punched in the stomach as an assailant tried to steal his pectoral cross. José De Córdoba |, WSJ, "Church Becomes Target in Nicaragua Crisis," 23 July 2018 At some point in the melee, a bullet struck him and pierced his lung, according to his death certificate. Joshua Partlow, Washington Post, "‘The people lost their fear’: How Nicaragua’s new revolution took shape," 26 Apr. 2018 On April 13, the end of Winnipeg’s 4–1 win over Minnesota devolved into multiple melees, yielding 70 PIMs. Alex Prewitt,, "Enter the Sin Bin: What It's Like to Be Sent to 'Adult Timeout' in the NHL," 17 Apr. 2018 In the wake of the melee, the referee initially said the Bills' No. USA TODAY, "Dolphins' Drake says throwing helmet was stupid," 1 Jan. 2018 At least one of Clemons' breasts was exposed during the melee, which was captured on video by a friend. Fox News, "Lawyer: Police mistreated black woman in restaurant arrest," 25 Apr. 2018 Brown’s defense offered new details on the holiday melee on the same day that a judge ruled prosecutors must turn over evidence, possibly including police video of the fatal shooting itself. Jay Reeves, The Seattle Times, "Lawyer: Man charged in mall shooting didn’t start the melee," 5 Dec. 2018 The crisis sparked a melee last month on the floor of parliament. Bill Spindle, WSJ, "Sri Lanka’s Crisis of Too Many Prime Ministers Barrels Toward a Climax," 4 Dec. 2018 Video of the May 16 melee outside the Sheridan Circle residence showed men in suits and olive-green military-style jackets kicking and bludgeoning protesters including women carrying young children and men in their 60s. Washington Post, "Lawsuits filed against Turkey over violence with guards at 2017 D.C. protest," 10 May 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

21 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

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).


a complex dispute or argument

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