\ 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


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.


please don't mess with me while I'm trying to concentrate
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Its sheer bulk chokes corals and seagrasses, traps turtles and turns beaches into a fetid mess. NBC News, "Scientists discover the world's biggest seaweed patch. They say it could be the 'new normal.'," 9 July 2019 The trouble is, issuing a $25 minibond involves a mess of paperwork and middlemen that can cost more than $25. Gregory Barber, WIRED, "How a Blockchain Could Help Roll Out Berkeley’s Next Fire Truck," 9 July 2019 Joyce and Hop are a convincing mess of a team: two old friends who bicker constantly yet harbor secret crushes on each other. Lorraine Ali,, "Review: ‘Stranger Things 3’ finds new horrors at ... the mall. Aiee!," 3 July 2019 Weedy mess Crops of several species of weeds are thriving in my back yard thanks to all that rain. Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp, Indianapolis Star, "The Hoosier Gardener: Plants in the ground, ready for summer," 3 July 2019 To avoid any extra mess, lay a drop cloth below the fireplace to protect the floor. Madeleine Bokan, House Beautiful, "The Foolproof Way To Paint Your Brick Fireplace," 2 July 2019 Keep your cocktails cooler Regular ice cubes melt too quickly, diluting the best cocktails into a watery mess. Arizona Republic, azcentral, "Summer in Arizona: Locals share 100 fun ways to survive the 100-degree heat in Phoenix," 1 July 2019 By the book's end, in any case, the girl learns that the primary blame for this mess lies at the feet of the rich relations. John Domini, Dallas News, "An Italian teenager meets the family she didn't know existed in 'A Girl Returned'," 1 July 2019 The One Night Stand, a mess of a burger on a soft Hawaiian-style bun, is the best seller. Kim Severson, New York Times, "A Naughty Name, a Virtuous Menu and a Line Down the Block," 1 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The state is unlikely to mess with firms on which the economy’s day-to-day stability depends. The Economist, "Russia is heaven for bondholders and hell for stockpickers," 29 June 2019 Their young daughter, Judy (Mckenna Grace), knows better than to mess with her parents’ things. The Washington Post, The Mercury News, "Review: ‘Annabelle Comes Home’ is good, dumb fun," 28 June 2019 Their young daughter, Judy (Mckenna Grace), knows better than to mess with her parents’ things. Michael O'sullivan, Twin Cities, "‘Annabelle Comes Home’ is good, dumb — and scary — summer fun," 26 June 2019 For many in the Lone Star State, there’s still an inescapable sense that Texas has just been messed with. Adam Chandler, Time, "Texans Are Very Upset About the Sale of Whataburger. Here's Why That Reaction Makes Total Sense," 21 June 2019 Los Angeles Times How the Watergate break-in was messed up by a then-UCLA student interning with the Democratic National Committee. Julia Wick,, "Essential California: The L.A. mall meme wars," 18 June 2019 It's messed up—and heartbreaking, because Bob is everything to Gwen. Christopher Rosa, Glamour, "Fosse/Verdon Proves It's Time to Cancel the Fragile Male Ego," 10 Apr. 2019 Social media is the future, but at the same time, it’s super messed up right now. Alison Caporimo, Seventeen, "10 Jace Norman Facts Every True "Henry Danger" Fan Should Know," 23 Jan. 2019 Having been taken by surprise with that attack, U.S. intelligence is determined not to mess up again. Christian Holub,, "Midway trailer puts Nick Jonas and Ed Skrein in World War II naval battle," 27 June 2019

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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Statistics for mess

Last Updated

14 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for mess

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

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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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with mess

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for mess

Spanish Central: Translation of mess

Nglish: Translation of mess for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of mess for Arabic Speakers

Comments on mess

What made you want to look up mess? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


something desired as essential

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