\ 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

Keep scrolling for more

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
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Rory McIlroy shot a 76 after opening with a 67, and Jordan Spieth made a mess of everything with a second-round 81 that sent him packing. Tim Dahlberg, Star Tribune, "Column: Another major mishap by Tiger Woods at US Open," 18 Sep. 2020 The conference cleaned up an unnecessary mess of its own making by deciding to do what almost everyone else is doing, which is playing football this fall. Doug Lesmerises, cleveland, "Big Ten football made two reasonable decisions and sandwiched them around a month of incompetence, silence and frustration," 16 Sep. 2020 And while her talent and onscreen magnetism have gained her 32 awards and a mess of nominations, the latest chapter in Henson’s career is taking her back to her first love. Jihan Forbes, Allure, "Taraji P. Henson's New Hair-Care Line Is Truly a Blessing for All Hair Types," 15 Sep. 2020 Only a few reviewers on Amazon reported that the flocking made a mess while setting it up. Paige Szmodis, Popular Mechanics, "The 8 Best Artificial Christmas Trees to Brighten the Holidays," 15 Sep. 2020 All the Time,’ a sweaty, bloated mess of a movie that flushes a knockout ensemble down the drain. Mary Colurso |, al, "What early reviews say about ‘The Devil All the Time’," 12 Sep. 2020 And then comes Rossi, Zach Veach and Marco Andretti, who take up three of the bottom four spots in the full-time driver standings and whose seasons have involved a mess of slow runs, rough crashes and mechanical errors. Nathan Brown, The Indianapolis Star, "IndyCar midseason report cards: Where do teams stand with five races left in 2020?," 11 Sep. 2020 In addition to tax, politicians can make a mess of cities in many ways. Daniel Tenreiro, National Review, "The Capital Note: Cities after COVID & GM’s Electric Vehicle Push," 8 Sep. 2020 Character and story bleed into one another, ultimately making a mess of everything and everyone. Jason Parham, Wired, "The Transgressive, Progressive Utopia of Summer Television," 3 Sep. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb 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 Some security experts say, in theory, a hacker could sow discord — or even mess up election day — by hijacking Bluetooth signals and sending out a whole bunch of false alerts. Washington Post, "I downloaded America’s first coronavirus exposure app. You should too.," 17 Aug. 2020 But dandruff is just one of many common scalp conditions that can mess with your daily routine. Mona Gohara, Good Housekeeping, "7 Scalp Conditions That Cause Bumps or Spots — And How to Treat Them," 27 Aug. 2020 All those contractions mess up your gut’s normal rhythm, which can leave you feeling nauseous. Korin Miller, SELF, "6 Surprising Reasons Why You're Feeling Nauseous," 25 Aug. 2020 His war on the nation’s traditional press is a part of the same scheme: information warfare, meant to mess with reality and sow as much confusion as possible. Washington Post, "This was the week America lost the war on misinformation," 30 July 2020 Although conservative bakers will tell you never to mess with a cake recipe, crumb cake’s eggy, resilient batter can be added to and marbled with other flavors with minimal risk. Stacy Adimando, Saveur, "Crumb Cake Is Germany’s Gift to Baking," 7 Nov. 2018 Being ill with the coronavirus can mess with your cycle, too. Washington Post, "Another routine the pandemic has disrupted: Your period," 24 Aug. 2020 Unwilling to mess with perfection, the NFL nixes the idea of full-time officials. Nick Canepa Columnist, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Column: Pechanga Arena may be old but serves its purpose well," 22 Aug. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about mess

Time Traveler for mess

Time Traveler

The first known use of mess was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Statistics for mess

Last Updated

23 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Mess.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Sep. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

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.

Keep scrolling for more

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).


Test Your Vocabulary

Challenging Vocabulary Quiz Returns!

  • stylized drawing of woman pole vaulting across gap to get trophy
  • Which is a synonym of fuliginous?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!