\ 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

Without a Nehru-Gandhi in charge, the argument goes, Congress will quickly become a rudderless mess. Sadanand Dhume, WSJ, "It’s Game Over for the Gandhis as a Political Dynasty Dies," 11 July 2019 Georgia is betting billions of dollars that toll lanes can be a big part of the solution to metro Atlanta’s traffic mess, and early evidence suggests that gamble is paying off. David Wickert, ajc, "Are toll lanes really the answer to Atlanta’s traffic mess?," 17 June 2019 And so, step by step, iTunes software gradually became a bloated, bewildering mess. Hiawatha Bray,, "For iTunes, a long-needed reorganization," 10 June 2019 Dark Phoenix sees the rug getting pulled from under the series' teen-reboot incarnation, which began life in 2011's X-Men: First Class and became an overwhelming mess in 2016's X-Men: Apocalypse. Sam Machkovech, Ars Technica, "Dark Phoenix isn’t an epic X-Men conclusion—but it’s a darned good teen flick," 7 June 2019 The interface for comparing weapons is also a confusing mess, especially in shops, where seeing how new options compare to your current loot should be a data-visualization priority. Kyle Orland, Ars Technica, "Borderlands 3 is a lot more Borderlands, in ways both good and bad," 17 Sep. 2019 The Bruins are a mess across the board, struggling to cover receivers or sustain drives. Los Angeles Times, "The Sports Report: Reports of USC’s resurgence were greatly exaggerated," 15 Sep. 2019 That may have big implications for how Ocean Cleanup and other plastic campaigns end up tackling this mess. Wired, "The Riddle, and Controversy, of All That Missing Plastic," 12 Sep. 2019 In reality, in selling to CloudCommerce, an obscure California penny-stock company, Parscale had jumped into a mess of his own making. Peter Elkind, ProPublica, "The Myths of the “Genius” Behind Trump’s Reelection Campaign," 11 Sep. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Because the Chargers found more ways to mess up than the Lions. Jeff Seidel, Detroit Free Press, "Yes, Detroit Lions' performance was ugly. But the L.A. Chargers were uglier," 15 Sep. 2019 However, this is an overwhelmingly harmful product that would cause an overwhelmed victim to unintentionally mess up their own case. Rubén Rosario, Twin Cities, "Rosario: Me Too? Nope. Count me and others out on these home rape-kit efforts," 14 Sep. 2019 Players should be aware that using special lures such glacial or magnetic could mess up the Pokemon spawns around an area. – Players will also be able to hatch Turtwig from 2km eggs from Pokestops. Gieson Cacho, The Mercury News, "Pokemon Go: Where to spend Turtwig Community Day in the Bay Area," 11 Sep. 2019 The Roys really appear to mess the whole thing up at dinner, when the conversation tilts toward business and there are questions over what their stewardship of the Pierce media empire would look like. Rey Mashayekhi, Fortune, "‘Succession’ Recap, S2E5: Money Wins," 9 Sep. 2019 The fingers were pointing at Shkodran Mustafi last year as Arsenal managed to mess up a seemingly comfortable route into the top four with their run of fixtures at the end of the season., "Granit Xhaka: How Arsenal's Misunderstood Midfielder Has Become the Club's Priceless Scapegoat," 5 Sep. 2019 In her first couple of years as head coach, Stevens was just trying to make sure not to mess anything up and do right by the team. Alvaro Montano, Houston Chronicle, "Cy-Fair softball’s Marissa Stevens to continue building championship culture," 30 July 2019 Really in the first half there were a couple of guys that slipped out there in the routes that kind of messed us up on two throws. Rana L. Cash, The Courier-Journal, "Complete Scott Satterfield interview comments after Louisville beats EKU," 8 Sep. 2019 Now, teams can’t mess with the battery itself, at least not yet. Brett Berk, WIRED, "How Formula E Racing Makes Electric Cars Faster, Smarter, Funner," 20 July 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

20 Oct 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

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