\ ˈmes \

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

Serve the mess in small bowls with a garnish of mint. Jeanmarie Brownson,, "When Eton mess gives you extra yolks, whip them up into ice cream," 10 July 2018 There is no denying the flights and the time changes and the late-night arrivals mess with sleep patterns and the ability to hydrate properly and maintain a regular diet. Kevin Acee,, "Padres on the road again — and again and again," 8 June 2018 This isn’t the first time the majority leader has tried to mess with recess, after all. Li Zhou, Vox, "Mitch McConnell cancels Senate’s August recess," 5 June 2018 Jughead After Jughead calls all the Serpents back to the Whyte Wyrm and gets them to stop rioting and pursuing Reggie, Jughead and Sweet Pea (Jordan Connor) bicker over Jughead’s responsibility for the mess with Fangs and the Ghoulies., "Riverdale Season 2, Episode 21 Recap: "Judgment Night"," 10 May 2018 So would IndyCar’s introduction of a new aero kit mess with a good thing? Jim Ayello, USA TODAY Sports, "IndyCar drivers expect speed, style to remain consistent at Indianapolis 500," 30 Apr. 2018 After Croatia’s Mario Mandzukic scored the biggest goal in his country’s history against England, a photographer got caught up in the celebration and was knocked over on his back in a giant mess. Andrew Beaton, WSJ, "The World Cup of Boring Celebrations," 13 July 2018 Gilmore Girls, but somehow doesn't all come together in a grating mess! Tom Philip, GQ, "The Best Movies/TV to Stream on Hulu This July 4," 3 July 2018 But there are other entities caught up in the mess that had no reason to pay attention to Facebook's new rules for advertisers, until their content was blocked. Sarah Frier, Anchorage Daily News, "Facebook’s algorithm blocks ads for Bush’s beans, singers named Clinton," 3 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Apparently messing with Drake’s money is the greatest offense one can commit against him., "Album Review: Drake Is Upset On Scorpion. Women Should Be Upset About Scorpion.," 2 July 2018 Van Ness is no stranger to how seasonal changes can mess with your skin's comfort. Marci Robin, Allure, "Queer Eye's Jonathan Van Ness Swears by Peppermint Oil to Cool Off on Hot Summer Days," 30 June 2018 Home gardeners eager to change hydrangea color should not bother messing with the aluminum levels in their soil, however, said Ron Kushner, a horticulturist at Primex Garden Center in Glenside. Tom Avril,, "What makes hydrangeas blue or pink? Playing defense," 26 June 2018 Natalie Portman spearheads a troupe of scientists into The Shimmer—an iridescent bubble which is raging trippy biological warfare in Florida, splicing DNA and messing with the minds and memories of all who enter. The Editors Of Gq, GQ, "The Best Movies of 2018 (So Far)," 19 June 2018 That was always part of me, which then messed with my self-confidence in a lot of ways. Zoë Weiner, Teen Vogue, "Chloë Grace Moretz Shares Her Thoughts on Beauty Standards and Retouching," 19 June 2018 Black people were pretty happy under Jim Crow until Northerners messed everything up. Michael Harriot, The Root, "Slaves, Dinosaurs and White Jesus, Oh My! How Taxpayers Fund Crazy Christian Conservative Education," 12 June 2018 If no one messes with your grocery shopping regime, find out where to watch a big band show or tee off in this week's Get-Out Guide for Waukesha County. Hannah Kirby, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "New Berlin and Mukwonago farmers markets open this week," 11 June 2018 Brewing at sea is not without challenges: Securing ingredients requires disciplined scheduling between ports, and the motion of the boat can mess with the efficacy of the yeast. Gary Dzen,, "Cruise ship beer brewer: a dream job come true," 22 May 2018

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


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


see mess entry 1

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Statistics for mess

Last Updated

22 Sep 2018

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 \

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

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


occurring twice a year or every two years

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