\ 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 updon't mess up your room
b : to mix up : bungle often used with upreally messed up my life
3 : to interfere with often used with upmagnetic storms that mess up communicationsTime
4 : to rough up : manhandle often used with upmess 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 The one and only vice-presidential debate Wednesday night was a different kind of mess, but no more useful to the voting public. Washington Post, "No more presidential debates this year? Not a problem. We’ve seen enough.," 8 Oct. 2020 Fred Barrett says that’s essentially letting Mother Nature take care of the mess. NBC news, "A growing toxic threat — made worse by climate change," 24 Sep. 2020 The premise is simple but groundbreaking: UA infused its softest fabric with tiny moisturizing microspheres that provides the hydrating power of lotion with none of the mess. Leada Gore |, al, "Under Armour launches new moisture-infuse workout wear," 23 Sep. 2020 Pre-emptive approaches also relieve some of the pressure from moderators and other community members to clean up some of the mess of comments. Arielle Pardes, Wired, "To Clean Up Comments, Let AI Tell Users Their Words Are Trash," 22 Sep. 2020 Without it, everything else about the day would feel like, well ... a bit of a mess. Shayna Murphy, USA TODAY, "This coffee maker is better than your Keurig—and it's on sale," 17 Sep. 2020 The Cubs then summoned a familiar face, Jeremy Jeffress, to try to get out of the mess, employing a five-man infield in the process. Tom Haudricourt, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Brewers 1, Cubs 0: The offense produced 18 fewer runs than the previous game and that was still enough," 11 Sep. 2020 If all of college football is too much of a mess, maybe there would be no playoff. Doug Lesmerises, cleveland, "Don’t count on the College Football Playoff waiting for an Ohio State football season in November," 29 Aug. 2020 Imagine this kind of mess 45 days following Nov. 3. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "An Autopsy of New York’s Mail-Vote Mess," 7 Aug. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Or a natural disaster, such as an early November hurricane, could mess up voting. Anthony Man,, "Could Florida, for once, be a beacon of clarity on Election Night? Or will it be just another cluster of chaos?," 9 Oct. 2020 Disturbances in the planet’s magnetosphere, which are usually caused by anomalous outer-space events like solar flares, might mess with the inner workings of the brain, scrambling our perceptions in strange ways. Jake Bittle, Popular Science, "Why do we see ghosts?," 6 Oct. 2020 Some forms of radiation, which is electromagnetic energy emitted in forms like heat, visible light, X-rays and radio waves, can mess with the cells inside the human body by breaking up the atoms and molecules they’re made of. Alex Fox, Smithsonian Magazine, "Moonwalking Humans Get Blasted With 200 Times the Radiation Experienced on Earth," 29 Sep. 2020 That means Tyler can potentially mess with Memphis' plan to backdoor David. Kyle Fowle,, "Big Brother recap: The Power of Veto causes a riff within The Committee," 24 Sep. 2020 And almost simultaneously, a sense of dread encroaches: For the love of all that’s holy, please don’t mess this up. Washington Post, "As the Toronto International Film Festival goes online, critical consensus might disappear. Good.," 5 Sep. 2020 Did Atlanta Braves mascot Blooper park himself behind home plate in a ghillie suit during the third inning of Game 1 of the Cincinnati Reds' Wild Card series in Atlanta to try to mess with Reds starting pitcher Trevor Bauer? Dave Clark, The Enquirer, "Atlanta Braves mascot Blooper sits behind home plate - in camouflage," 30 Sep. 2020 It’s not just the Democrats (Nancy Pelosi, then Joe Biden) who are warning the U.K. not to mess with Irish peace by doing anything that could impose a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland (see above). David Meyer, Fortune, "The ghost of the dot-com bubble," 18 Sep. 2020 Of course, being forced to sit anywhere for too long is bound to mess with your concentration, says Matthew Pontifex of Michigan State University, who studies how physical activity boosts cognitive function. Vicky Hallett, National Geographic, "Zooming in on keeping kids focused," 3 Sep. 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

17 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Mess.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for mess


How to pronounce mess (audio)

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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Comments on mess

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