\ 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

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 The game is a confusing, overly bloated mess right now at least in terms of challenges and menus. Erik Kain, Forbes, 2 June 2021 Even with Rock’s star power and influence as an executive producer, Spiral: From the Book of Saw is a mess, like a pile of dismembered ideas wearing the skin of social justice. Shirley Li, The Atlantic, 20 May 2021 Up to 8 inches of snow fell near Cleveland yesterday making roads a mess in northern Ohio. Max Golembo, ABC News, 22 Apr. 2021 These Covid rules are a mess, inhuman and contain no fairness. Washington Post, 19 Apr. 2021 On the other hand, the 2021 Golden Globes, which is usually the most fizzy of the TV awards bashes, was a mess, split between Los Angeles and New York, and notable for technical goofs and a dreary lack of fun. oregonlive, 19 Apr. 2021 Sick of your makeup looking flawless in the morning and then a mess by the afternoon? Jennifer Aldrich, Better Homes & Gardens, 19 Apr. 2021 Could a portrait of an iconic singer as a tragic, strung-out mess win a Best Actress Oscar? Michael Schulman, The New Yorker, 15 Apr. 2021 The dealers have a special machine that can bury the wires fairly quickly without making a mess of your yard. Jim Rossman, Dallas News, 8 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb People who enjoy trimming on small hedges appreciate lavender, which needs yearly shearing, while those who don’t want to mess with any plants may find that chore something to ignore and the plant will get too leggy. oregonlive, 23 Feb. 2021 The most popular opinion locally and nationally is Jacksonville can’t afford to mess this up after whiffing so often at the all-important quarterback position. Mark Long,, 26 Dec. 2020 Pitchers might be wise to not mess with D-FW’s top sluggers, because home runs are being crushed at a rapid rate. Greg Riddle, Dallas News, 27 Apr. 2021 Such scratching might mess up beds or lawns, but the damage will probably be localized — and is easily fixed. Washington Post, 31 Mar. 2021 Get ready to see these price rises pushed down the line to consumers, another factor that could mess with the new-build market for homes. Bernhard Warner, Fortune, 30 Apr. 2021 Nathan Long and Lili Chin have struck out so far in their four-month search to find an affordable home in the Los Angeles area – a cold streak that threatens to mess up their anniversary plans. Alex Veiga, The Christian Science Monitor, 9 Apr. 2021 The Tide doesn’t need a loss at Georgia and a short stay in the SEC tournament to mess up a No. 2 seed. Charles Hollis, al, 5 Mar. 2021 But The Willoughbys—not nominated—will mess you up. Jason Kehe, Wired, 14 Apr. 2021

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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Learn More About mess

Time Traveler for mess

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for mess

Last Updated

20 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Mess.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Jun. 2021.

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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.

More from Merriam-Webster on mess

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for mess

Nglish: Translation of mess for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of mess for Arabic Speakers


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