\ ˈme-sē How to pronounce messy (audio) \
messier; messiest

Definition of messy

1 : marked by confusion, disorder, or dirt : untidy a messy room
2 : lacking neatness or precision : careless, slovenly messy thinking
3 : extremely unpleasant or trying messy lawsuits a messy divorce

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from messy

messily \ ˈme-​sə-​lē How to pronounce messily (audio) \ adverb
messiness \ ˈme-​sē-​nəs How to pronounce messiness (audio) \ noun

Examples of messy in a Sentence

Painting a room can be messy work. Some kinds of glue are messier than others. a delicious but messy sandwich
See More
Recent Examples on the Web And if your breakup is going to be messy, there’s no avoiding that, no matter what state the world is in. Hannah Herrera Greenspan,, "Social Graces: Someone you know has recovered from coronavirus and wants to hang out. Here’s how to handle.," 5 Aug. 2020 More to the point, Eating Animals is honest about the fact that deciding to make a major dietary/lifestyle change—one that goes against the way most of us were brought up—is extraordinarily messy business. Carolyn L. Todd, SELF, "The Book I Always Recommend to People Thinking About Going Vegetarian," 5 Aug. 2020 But the messy end-stage selection could be more of a feature, rather than a bug, of the selection process. Emily Larsen, Washington Examiner, "Biden risks souring veep pick with delays that trigger negative stories," 4 Aug. 2020 Luckily, the sale is chock-full of hair products that will keep yours in check, no salon needed—from jumbo conditioners to replenishing oils and scrunchies for elevated messy topknots. Erin Parker, Glamour, "The Nordstrom Anniversary Sale 2020 Has Major Beauty Deals You Won’t Want to Miss," 4 Aug. 2020 His reasons were that a messy public divorce would ruin his career and permanently damage his reputation. Mark Dawidziak, cleveland, "Dick Goddard, Cleveland TV legend, dies at 89," 4 Aug. 2020 Chef/owner Rachel Miller said the restaurant has hand sanitizer and wipes on hand, but eating there can be messy, and offering the wash station helps limit the number of people coming inside to wash up. Andy Rosen,, "This Lynn nonprofit is known for its murals. Now, it’s making hand washing stations," 29 July 2020 Maintaining a paper planner, dry-erase board, online calendar, and also reminders in your head can get messy. Stefanie Gordon, Woman's Day, "How to Set Goals and Actually Achieve Them, According to the Pros," 27 May 2020 So when a person who doesn't understand the struggle steals the spot — and refuses to give it up — things can get a little messy. Jackie Frere, Redbook, "This Mom Took Her Sweet, Sweet Revenge When a Man Stole a Parking Spot for Parents," 19 Oct. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'messy.' 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 messy

1627, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about messy

Time Traveler for messy

Time Traveler

The first known use of messy was in 1627

See more words from the same year

Statistics for messy

Last Updated

8 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

“Messy.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 Aug. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for messy


How to pronounce messy (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of messy

: not clean or tidy
: carelessly made or done : not careful or precise
: causing or involving a mess : likely to make something dirty or sticky


\ ˈme-sē How to pronounce messy (audio) \
messier; messiest

Kids Definition of messy

1 : not clean or tidy a messy room
2 : causing or making a mess a messy art project
3 : not careful or precise messy writing

Other Words from messy

messiness \ ˈme-​sē-​nəs \ noun

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on messy

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for messy

Spanish Central: Translation of messy

Nglish: Translation of messy for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of messy for Arabic Speakers

Comments on messy

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


Test Your Vocabulary

Original Meanings Quiz

  • rembrandt painting a young scholar and his tutor
  • Which of the following is the earliest known sense of the word awe?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


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!