\ ˈmes How to pronounce mess (audio) \

Definition of mess

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a quantity of food:
a archaic : food set on a table at one time
b : a prepared dish of soft food also : a mixture of ingredients cooked or eaten together
c : enough food of a specified kind for a dish or a meal picked a mess of peas for dinner
2a : a group of persons who regularly take their meals together every officer with a unit … is obliged to belong to a mess— S. G. Maurice also : a meal so taken
b : a place where meals are regularly served to a group : mess hall The soldiers marched to the mess for breakfast.
3a : a disordered, untidy, offensive, or unpleasant state or condition your room is in a mess
b : one that is disordered, untidy, offensive, or unpleasant usually because of blundering, laxity, or misconduct [the movie] is a mess, as sloppy in concept as it is in execution— Judith Crist
4 : a large quantity or number They're in a mess of trouble.


messed; messing; messes

Definition of mess (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to provide with meals at a mess
2a : to make dirty or untidy : disarrange often used with up don't mess up your room
b : to mix up : bungle often used with up really messed up my life
3 : to interfere with often used with up magnetic storms that mess up communicationsTime
4 : to rough up : manhandle often used with up mess him up good so he won't cheat us again

intransitive verb

1 : to take meals with a mess
2 : to make a mess
3a : putter, trifle children like to mess around with paints
b : to handle or play with something especially carelessly don't mess with my camera often used with around
c : to take an active interest in something or someone messing around with new video techniques also : interfere, meddle messing in other people's affairs you'd better not mess with me
4 : to become confused or make an error usually used with up

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Examples of mess in a Sentence

Noun He was a mess after gardening all day. My hair is a mess. Well, that's another fine mess you've gotten me into! How do we get ourselves into these messes? The school system is a mess. Things were a real mess for a while after she retired. My life is a complete mess. She was a real mess for a while after her divorce. He was a mess during his daughter's wedding ceremony. Verb please don't mess with me while I'm trying to concentrate
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun When everything is a mess and no one knows which tools to use — how to subscribe (or unsubscribe), where to manage memberships and permissions, and what makes one stack better than another — where do companies turn next? Gordian Braun, Forbes, "The Past, Present And Future Of SaaS," 1 Mar. 2021 Alabama 66 — is not going to mess with Alabama’s big picture. Charles Hollis, al, "Arkansas makes strong case vs. Alabama as SEC’s best team," 26 Feb. 2021 The main roads were all clear, but side roads were still a mess this morning. Janet B. Carson, Arkansas Online, "It's melting!," 22 Feb. 2021 As power failed in Texas, right-wing news outlets and politicians galvanized around an oddly specific narrative: that Texas’s modest embrace of wind power had damned the state to this mess. Kate Aronoff, The New Republic, "Texas’s Energy Crisis Is America’s Future," 19 Feb. 2021 The Unicorn Queen, who had formerly been known for her self-assurance, was a mess. Doug Maccash,, "The lush yet loungy 'Mystic Krewe of Unicorns' Mardi Gras float house is a masterpiece," 4 Feb. 2021 And now for your evening weather report: Days after a weather system brought actual snow to Malibu, California, a new series of storms could lead to a wintry mess for much of the nation. Ashley Shaffer, USA TODAY, "The Biden years have begun," 25 Jan. 2021 Bobbie takes care of the boarding party while Alex jumps over to mess with the Belter ship. Rhett Allain, Wired, "Could Bobbie Really Hold 2 Spaceships Together in The Expanse?," 25 Jan. 2021 And then there was Church’s fleeting reference, perhaps the only one all night, to the mess that President Trump is happily making of the election. Los Angeles Times, "Somehow, the CMA Awards recklessly ignored the COVID pandemic during a show devastated by it," 12 Nov. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb To mess with him, Winston convinces Schmidt to go on an adventure to score some crack. Allison Jiang, Vulture, "15 Essential Episodes of New Girl," 25 Feb. 2021 Fans of trippy dream sequences and ambiguous endings will also be disappointed to learn that Inception will no longer be available to mess with your mind via Netflix, come March's end. Ruth Kinane,, "What's leaving Netflix in March: Inception, Sex and the City: The Movie, and more," 24 Feb. 2021 Don’t mess with plungers and traditional methods to unclog your toilets. Popular Science, "Check out these deals on household cleaning appliances," 21 Jan. 2021 Unfortunately, Popeyes has Frenchy's outnumbered in Houston about 10-to-1, but there's not a Popeye's on the map that can mess with the Frenchy's on Scott Street. Matt Young, Chron, "Popeyes got rid of Cajun rice. Frenchy's would never.," 1 Feb. 2021 Stormy space weather would mean more intense electromagnetic activity on our favorite local ball of hot roiling gas (the sun), which can mess with the operation of satellites, power grids and space travel, reports Ashley Strickland of CNN. Alex Fox, Smithsonian Magazine, "A New Solar Cycle Promises Calm Space Weather," 18 Sep. 2020 But this news, which broke on Saturday, is another bang to the gong that signals how long and consistently the Lions mess things up. Mitch Albom, Detroit Free Press, "Mitch Albom: Matthew Stafford leaving Detroit Lions was inevitable, but still depressing," 24 Jan. 2021 There were new questions too, like whether a new variant believed to spread faster would mess with their calculations, and how to figure in the risks of people around them who had received a vaccine. Gregory Barber, Wired, "How Many Microcovids Would You Spend on a Burrito?," 12 Jan. 2021 And the deal was Saudi Arabia would not mess with the price of oil, would keep the oil flowing, and would contribute to stability in the region. CBS News, ""Blood and Oil" coauthors on Mohammed bin Salman and the future of Saudi Arabia," 14 Oct. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'mess.' 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 mess


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for mess

Noun and Verb

Middle English mes, from Anglo-French, from Late Latin missus course at a meal, from missus, past participle of mittere to put, from Latin, to send — more at smite

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Time Traveler for mess

Time Traveler

The first known use of mess was in the 14th century

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Statistics for mess

Last Updated

4 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Mess.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Mar. 2021.

Style: MLA
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More Definitions for mess



English Language Learners Definition of mess

: a very dirty or untidy state or condition
: something or someone that looks very dirty or untidy
: a situation that is very complicated or difficult to deal with


\ ˈmes How to pronounce mess (audio) \

Kids Definition of mess

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a dirty or untidy state They left things in a mess.
2 : something in a dirty or untidy state Your hair is a mess.
3 : a difficult situation How do you get into these messes?
4 : a group of people (as military personnel) who regularly eat together
5 : a place (as in the military) where meals are served


messed; messing

Kids Definition of mess (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to make dirty or untidy They messed the place up.
2 : to make mistakes in or mix up She messed up the speech.
3 : to become confused or make an error I messed up the first time.
4 : to use or do in an aimless way I messed around on the computer all afternoon.
5 : to handle in a careless way Stop messing with my camera.
6 : to deal with in a way that may cause anger or trouble Don't mess with them.

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More from Merriam-Webster on mess

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for mess

Nglish: Translation of mess for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of mess for Arabic Speakers

Comments on mess

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