mo·​rass | \ mə-ˈras , 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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from morass

morassy \ -​ˈra-​sē \ 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

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 In mid-June, Judge Sullivan asked the contenders to consider mediation as a way out of a morass of litigation. Peg Brickley, WSJ, "Judge Pushes Settlement Talks in Tribune LBO Court Fight," 10 July 2018 But rather than provide clarity on the future of DACA, the ruling only adds layers of complexity to an existing morass in the courts about the program's future. Tal Kopan, CNN, "DACA ruling further complicates complex legal path forward," 25 Apr. 2018 In office for 17 months, Moïse has been unable to lift Haiti out of its deep economic morass despite a litany of promises. Jacqueline Charles, miamiherald, "Haiti has put a fuel hike on hold. But is it enough to save the prime minister's job?," 7 July 2018 The echoes to the privacy morass of 2018 are, not surprisingly, fully intentional. Brian Barrett, WIRED, "Westworld’s Real Villain Has Always Been Its Privacy Policy," 24 June 2018 The goal then was to get geeks from Silicon Valley to take tours of duty in Washington, cut through the morass of military bureaucracy, and build technology that’s actually user-friendly and doesn’t take years to produce. Issie Lapowsky, WIRED, "The Pentagon Is Building a Dream Team of Tech-Savvy Soldiers," 2 July 2018 General Motors itself rose from that morass, an amalgam of several companies. Rick Tetzeli, Fortune, "GM Gets Ready for a Post-Car Future," 23 May 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about morass

Listen to Our Podcast about morass

Statistics for morass

Last Updated

21 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for morass

The first known use of morass was in 1655

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for morass



English Language Learners Definition of morass

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


mo·​rass | \ mə-ˈras \

Kids Definition of morass

Keep scrolling for more

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

Comments on morass

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


esteemed in general opinion

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

What did you just call me?! A Quiz

  • rows-of-various-emoji
  • If a member of the audience describes your speech as bombastic, does that person mean it is:
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Word Winder's CrossWinder

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!