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

Teammates and coaches from both sides rushed into the melee to break it up. Ryan Gaydos, Fox News, "Texans star DeAndre Hopkins, 49ers defensive back Jimmie Ward fight at joint practice," 15 Aug. 2018 Read more: Rouse was charged after a block party turned into a shooting melee early Thursday morning around Court and Clemens streets. Jennifer Dixon, Detroit Free Press, "Mount Clemens block-party murder suspect arrested at outside Chicago," 7 July 2018 Then, with one thrown elbow by Philippines player Roger Pogoy, the contest turned into an all-out melee. Matt Velazquez, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Bucks' Thon Maker involved in brawl during game between Australia and Philippines in FIBA World Cup," 2 July 2018 Nine people were arrested after a black disc jockey playing at a Lynnwood tavern early Saturday was physically attacked in a melee in which racial slurs were used. Erik Lacitis, The Seattle Times, "DJ at Lynnwood tavern attacked; 9 arrested in melee involving racial slurs," 8 Dec. 2018 One plaintiff claims an officer told her police had been instructed not to intervene in the melee. Lucia I. Suarez Sang, Fox News, "Trump supporters pelted by eggs, punches can sue San Jose cops after attack, court says," 31 July 2018 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

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

23 Apr 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

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