\ 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

Where previously there was a splotchy mess, there are now distinct objects, and something is happening. Anil K. Seth, Scientific American, "The Neuroscience of Reality," 27 Aug. 2019 That’s why last week was a mess for NASA: Ars Technica reported that the space agency would build its lunar lander at Alabama’s Marshall Space Flight Center rather than Texas’ Johnson Space Center. Tim Fernholz, Quartz, "Trump’s 5-year moon landing plan has gone off the rails," 19 Aug. 2019 Physicists understood that an expanding bundle of energy would grow into a crumpled mess rather than the huge, smooth cosmos that modern astronomers observe. Wired, "Cosmologists Clash Over the Beginning of the Universe," 16 June 2019 View this post on Instagram Just another person cleaning up one of my messes... Katherine J. Igoe, Marie Claire, "What Is a Box King? Unraveling 'Bachelorette' Contestant Joe Barsano's Actual Job," 14 May 2019 One van caught in the mess was carrying patients headed to Rio for medical procedures, according to O Dia. Elizabeth Lawrence, USA TODAY, "Man armed with gun, knife, gasoline can takes bus hostage in Brazil," 20 Aug. 2019 The wet fields and muddy roads became a swampy mess. National Geographic, "Napoleon lost the Battle of Waterloo—here’s what went wrong," 15 Aug. 2019 In fact, our Good Housekeeping Institute experts tested and approved the best tricks for cleaning up these exact messes. Stacia Affelt, Good Housekeeping, "3 Genius Cleaning Tricks For Your Toughest Kitchen Messes," 15 Aug. 2019 Armed with a date card, Kimball pulled aside Godwin, Lovar and Kristina Schulman, and quickly learned about the mess that Horstmann created. Eric Todisco,, "Chris Harrison Shades 2 Bachelor in Paradise Contestants in Cast Photo," 13 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The quarterback who messes up less frequently will win this game. Dieter Kurtenbach, The Mercury News, "Dieter’s NFL betting guide: In-depth analysis and picks of every Week 1 game," 6 Sep. 2019 Using funny gifs as spelling lessons, some social media followers are calling out others who have messed up the name of the powerful hurricane. Johnny Diaz,, "Hurricane Dorain? On social media, Dorian is getting misspelled all over the place," 2 Sep. 2019 Second, by expanding too fast, companies risk losing control of product quality and messing up their management structure. The Economist, "Running a company is a permanent juggling act," 29 Aug. 2019 One mom wrote on Facebook that her son’s schedule is messed up in the system, so the bus is not stopping to get him. Max Londberg,, "'I thought my kid was dead.' Late buses, unanswered calls leave parents panicking," 26 Aug. 2019 Who cares if your shoulder is too messed up to pick up your child. Ann Killion,, "Don’t boo Andrew Luck: The man has perspective," 26 Aug. 2019 Though the hide and seek is very real, how and why the Le Domas family plays it this way is very not and extremely messed up. Kaitlin Reilly,, "Everything You Need To Know About The Crazy, Bloody Game In Ready Or Not," 24 Aug. 2019 History is replete with examples of presidents messing up and stumbling into wars, aggravating recessions and market crashes, even inflicting long-term structural damage on the nation. Barry Ritholtz, Twin Cities, "Barry Ritholtz: The #TrumpRecession label is going to stick," 20 Aug. 2019 Those have irked astronomers, who fear these reflective objects will mess up their sensitive images of the night sky. Loren Grush, The Verge, "Why stowaway creatures on the Moon confound international space law," 16 Aug. 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

8 Sep 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

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


miscellaneous remnants or debris

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