mo·​rass | \ mə-ˈras How to pronounce morass (audio) , mȯ-\

Definition of morass

1 : marsh, swamp
2a : a situation that traps, confuses, or impedes a legal morass
b : an overwhelming or confusing mass or mixture a morass of traffic jams— Mary Roach

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Other Words from morass

morassy \ mə-​ˈra-​sē How to pronounce morassy (audio) , mȯ-​ \ adjective

The Swampy History of Morass

We won't swamp you with details: morass comes from the Dutch word moeras, which itself derives from an Old French word, maresc, meaning "marsh." Morass has been part of English for centuries, and in its earliest uses it was a synonym of swamp or marsh. (That was the sense Robert Louis Stevenson used when he described Long John Silver emerging from "a low white vapour that had crawled during the night out of the morass" in Treasure Island.) Imagine walking through a thick, muddy swamp—it's easy to compare such slogging to trying to disentangle yourself from a sticky situation. By the mid-19th century, morass had gained a figurative sense, and could refer to any predicament that was as murky, confusing, or difficult to navigate as a literal swamp or quagmire.

Examples of morass in a Sentence

advised against becoming involved in that country's civil war, warning that escape from that morass might prove nigh impossible the distracted driver had driven his car off the road and into a morass

Recent Examples on the Web

Language is constantly shifting, creating a process of untangling for historians that can feel more morass than mosaic. Jeanna Kadlec, Longreads, "The 19th Century Lesbian Made for 21st Century Consumption," 7 June 2019 The goal: cut through a bureaucratic morass that slowed projects for months — sometimes years. Rachel Swan,, "City speeds up approval process for new bike lanes, road safety improvements," 5 June 2019 The bank’s 2016 sales practices scandal has turned into a morass of regulatory problems that claimed the jobs of two CEOs and won’t go away. Rachel Louise Ensign, WSJ, "Wells Fargo, Stuck in ‘Wait and See Mode,’ Struggles to Boost Its Businesses," 9 Apr. 2019 Cost projections for the train have soared to around $80 billion amid litigation, engineering challenges and ordinary government morass. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Death of a California Dream," 13 Feb. 2019 But the solution to China’s private-sector financial institutional morass will remain as intractable as that of Japan. WSJ, "China’s Market Meddling Will End Like Japan’s," 26 Dec. 2018 But that hasn’t stopped him from leaping head first into the racist morass of the far right. Jane Coaston, Vox, "Virginia Republicans just nominated an alt-right hero to run for Senate," 8 Aug. 2018 Regulatory morass and lawsuits among drugmakers have also slowed uptake. Jared S. Hopkins, WSJ, "Samsung Faces Resistance From Big Pharma in the U.S.," 11 Jan. 2019 The bad optics of an empty chair could outweigh being dragged further into a morass that Google may feel belongs to Facebook and Twitter. Casey Newton, The Verge, "Congress is getting better at questioning social media executives," 6 Sep. 2018

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

1655, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for morass

Dutch moeras, modification of Old French maresc, of Germanic origin; akin to Old English mersc marsh — more at marsh

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Last Updated

10 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for morass

The first known use of morass was in 1655

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English Language Learners Definition of morass

: an area of soft, wet ground : a marsh or swamp


mo·​rass | \ mə-ˈras How to pronounce morass (audio) \

Kids Definition of morass

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More from Merriam-Webster on morass

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with morass

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for morass

Spanish Central: Translation of morass

Nglish: Translation of morass for Spanish Speakers

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