\ 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

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 The case was a hopeless mess, owing to both the local court’s hostility toward the defendants and the abject failure of the county sheriff to deliver justice. Patrick Berry, The New Yorker, "The Mail," 12 Aug. 2019 The Orlando City backline deflected the initial shot off the kick, but the ricocheting ball landed in a chaotic mess of players at the feet of Patrick Mullins, who drilled it home to level the score 1-1. Julia Poe, Pro Soccer USA, "Orlando City grinds out 1-1 draw on road against Toronto FC," 11 Aug. 2019 Tyler Boyd, Bengals — Cincinnati might be a mess this season after injuries to A.J. Green and the offensive line. Kevin Cusick, Twin Cities, "The Loop Fantasy Football Preview: Our Favorites," 9 Aug. 2019 In light of the Renault-Nissan mess, this approach seems sensible. Stephen Wilmot, WSJ, "Ford-VW Learns From Renault-Nissan’s Mistakes," 12 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

No one knows her, so who was Linda sent there to mess with? Julie Hinds, Detroit Free Press, "'The Good Place' star takes break from final episode taping for Detroit Improv Festival," 7 Aug. 2019 George Trois had been declared Restaurant of the Year at the Jean Banchet Awards just seven weeks earlier; messing with that sort of momentum takes some brass gougeres. Phil Vettel,, "Triple-threat dining: Aboyer and Silencieux join George Trois for a Winnetka trifecta," 5 Aug. 2019 The film is less about the consequences for the boys who filmed her, and messed with her, but about Mandy’s silent and determined journey to figure out the truth. Morgan Baila,, "HBO's Share Illuminates The Reality Of Being A Teenage Girl In A Totally New Way," 17 July 2019 Also stalking carmakers in Europe is fear of a chaotic Brexit in October that would mess with just-in-time supply chains and could lead to tariffs on cars moving between the European Union and Britain. Charles Riley, CNN, "The global auto industry has the worst kind of problems," 12 July 2019 Their young daughter, Judy (Mckenna Grace), knows better than to mess with her parents’ things. The Washington Post, The Mercury News, "Review: ‘Annabelle Comes Home’ is good, dumb fun," 28 June 2019 Their young daughter, Judy (Mckenna Grace), knows better than to mess with her parents’ things. Michael O’sullivan, Houston Chronicle, "‘Annabelle Comes Home’ is good, dumb - and scary - summer fun," 27 June 2019 Despite new initiatives from Google and Facebook, messing with privacy controls is like playing a carnival game. Sarah Krouse And Patience Haggin, WSJ, "Internet Providers Look to Cash In on Your Web Habits," 27 June 2019 Larger cystic pimples can last up to a month, or longer with additional irritation due to messing with face. Sara Radin, Teen Vogue, "How to Pop A Pimple Properly, Even Though You Really Shouldn't," 27 June 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

25 Aug 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).


a haphazard or makeshift solution

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