\ 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

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 See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The global economy is a mess of crosscurrents, any one of which would be destabilizing on its own. Christine Romans, CNN, 10 May 2022 Keep their creativity sharp with this set, which lets kids use glitter without making a mess. Rachel Rothman, Good Housekeeping, 9 May 2022 Your outer environment is often a reflection of your internal, and Aram was a mess. Alamin Yohannes,, 7 May 2022 The news itself was a mess of confusing, alarming headlines. Brittany Spanos, Rolling Stone, 6 May 2022 Northern California also experienced a blast of moisture this week, with deep snow across the southern Cascades and the northern Sierra Nevada snarling traffic and making a mess of conditions. Hayley Smith, Los Angeles Times, 22 Apr. 2022 The supply-chain issue is making a mess of the auto industry. Paul Daugherty, The Enquirer, 18 Apr. 2022 The young artists' energy erases any doubt that making a mess is a lot of fun. Jack Schnedler, Arkansas Online, 15 Feb. 2022 Is the child nine months, perhaps starting to crawl and making a mess everywhere? Julie Bogen, The Atlantic, 9 Feb. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Find out why a tiki guy was one of the first Americans to mess with tequila cocktails here. Jason O'bryan, Robb Report, 29 Apr. 2022 It’s kind of surprising that more artists don’t mess with the formula of doing a show looking out into the audience and spotlights with their backs to their band, with all the formalities that come with that. Chris Willman, Variety, 26 Apr. 2022 Left unaddressed is whether Trump may have received another message: Don’t mess with Bill Barr. Washington Post, 1 Mar. 2022 Doing the latter can apparently mess up Drops eligibility. Kris Holt, Forbes, 27 Apr. 2022 For highlighter beginners, this stick-to-balm highlighter is easy to use and impossible to mess up. ELLE, 14 Apr. 2022 How much is that going to mess up Lucas (Josh McKenzie)? Ruth Kinane,, 1 Dec. 2021 Remember that no prescription is required, so no need to mess with rebates. Ed Silverman, STAT, 9 Apr. 2022 Individual users are likely to be less tech-savvy than an organization's administrator and therefore less likely to be willing to mess with these settings. Ron Amadeo, Ars Technica, 31 Mar. 2022 See More

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.

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

Learn More About mess

Time Traveler for mess

Time Traveler

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

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Dictionary Entries Near mess

Mesropian alphabet


mess about

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Statistics for mess

Last Updated

15 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Mess.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for mess


\ 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.

More from Merriam-Webster on mess

Nglish: Translation of mess for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of mess for Arabic Speakers


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