mess

noun
\ 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.

mess

verb
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

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

Marks has cleaned up Brooklyn’s salary-cap mess and can chase a max free agent this summer. Dan Gelston, The Seattle Times, "Bad knee makes Embiid doubtful for 76ers in Game 1 vs. Nets," 12 Apr. 2019 These quartz surfaces are showpieces that wow the eye and stand up to your hardest tasks and messes. The Good Housekeeping Institute, Good Housekeeping, "GH Seal Spotlight: Caesarstone Countertops," 5 Apr. 2019 The new secret to flawless nails costs less than $8, and involves zero mess, clean up, or drying time. Jenna Rennert, Vogue, "The 5-Minute Manicure That Counts Fans From Jennifer Lopez to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez," 29 Mar. 2019 Our heroine is Cassandra Price, a brilliant mess of a human being eking out an existence at a megacorporation that her father’s work helped elevate into one of the most lucrative companies in the world. Laura Hudson, The Verge, "Zoe Quinn’s Goddess Mode makes cyberpunk magic from the internet," 27 Dec. 2018 Chinese President Xi Jinping appears to be treading carefully to avoid a public relations mess, analysts say. Danielle Paquette, Washington Post, "China tells the U.S. to stop hurting itself in the trade war," 11 July 2018 But Hoffman brings the baggage of a bizarre cyberbullying mess in which his fiance was accused by the wife of the Ottawa captain of anonymous, cruel taunts on Instagram. Greg Cote, miamiherald, "Panthers should have gone after championship coach, but here's why they had no interest," 21 June 2018 On trying to stay organized: My desk is a hot mess. Jessica Prince Erlich, The Cut, "How I Get It Done: Stephanie Mark, Editor-in-Chief of Coveteur," 19 June 2018 Winter can make a real mess of your lawn, so start in early spring by cleaning up all the debris scattered across the yard, including twigs, acorns, stones, branches, litter, thatch and dead leaves. Joseph Truini, Popular Mechanics, "How to Get Your Lawn Ready for Spring," 22 Jan. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

TVs, tablets, and phones specifically mess with your sense of sleepiness. Caroline Picard, Good Housekeeping, "The Right Way to Clean Your Bedroom So You Can Sleep Better Than Ever," 14 Mar. 2019 Calderon often messes with the heads of his audiences, blurring lines of theater and reality. Christopher Arnott, courant.com, "Calderon's 'Kiss' Full Of Seismic Psychological Surprises At Yale Rep," 4 May 2018 Doing that took messing with some seriously dodgy Chrome extensions. Jon Porter, The Verge, "Despite its flaws, Facebook still holds my memories, and giving that up is hard," 17 Nov. 2018 However, this malady extends beyond the workplace, messing with homemakers, students and even retirees. Philip Chard, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Burnout reflects a conflict between our inner calling and what we have to do," 13 July 2018 However, the South Carolina Education Lottery suspended the game, saying its computer system vendor, Intralot (irlty, +7.14%), had messed up. David Meyer, Fortune, "They Thought They'd Won $35 Million in the Lottery. Why These South Carolinians Are Getting $1 Each Instead," 1 June 2018 Cheryl literally doused herself in blood and is now wielding a gothic candlestick—all to threaten her mother to stop messing with her and Nana Rose. Christopher Rosa, Glamour, "'Riverdale' Season 2 Episode 18 Recap: 'Carrie: The Musical' Goes Horribly, Horribly Wrong," 18 Apr. 2018 At first, a Cleveland water department operator suspected one of Contessa's kids had been messing with some valves at the house. Leila Atassi, cleveland.com, "Misfortune befalls the Korpers, 2 weeks after moving into their new home: A Greater Cleveland," 14 Mar. 2018 Another part of my job that was really frustrating was that after the holiday season was when Amazon determined promotions and raises, which is really messed up because everyone is on a post-Christmas crash. Chavie Lieber, Vox, "The human costs of Black Friday, explained by a former Amazon warehouse manager," 20 Nov. 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

Noun

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb

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

21 Apr 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

mess

noun

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

mess

noun
\ 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

mess

verb
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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