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 morass (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 But that isn’t a betrayal of the metal-love theme, just Cuomo showing us how hard rock fits in with the Beach Boys, the Cars, and Loverboy in the morass of music from that era. Jon Dolan, Rolling Stone, "Weezer Deliver a Love Letter to Eighties Metal on ‘Van Weezer’," 7 May 2021 The political morass left Israel without a state budget for two consecutive years in the middle of a pandemic and has delayed appointments to several key administrative and judicial posts. New York Times, "Netanyahu Offers Rival a Year in Office, in Last-Minute Bid for Government," 3 May 2021 And the political morass in each place is as bad—and often worse—as when the U.S. first got involved. Robin Wright, The New Yorker, "Why It’s So Hard for America to End Its Wars," 9 Apr. 2021 The government had spent hundreds of millions of dollars building airports, but in the morass of corruption, key radars barely functioned and runways lacked lights, meaning that any operation would have to take place by day or from another country. Joe Parkinson, The Atlantic, "When America Couldn’t Bring Back Our Girls," 3 Apr. 2021 The morass of guidelines has set off a free-for-all among people with underlying health problems like cancer or Type 2 diabetes to persuade state health and political officials to add particular conditions to an evolving vaccine priority list. New York Times, "How America’s Vaccine System Makes People With Health Problems Fight for a Place in Line," 10 Mar. 2021 The four-hour hearing sent the attentive citizen plummeting into a governmental morass in which no one was responsible for the calamities of that infamous day because no one was apparently in charge. Washington Post, "In a bureaucracy, no one has the answers," 4 Mar. 2021 But Trump's behavior doesn't explain the morass the FDA created over testing. Ezra Klein New York Times, Star Tribune, "Is government too timid in the way it fights COVID-19?," 1 Apr. 2021 Since the vessel is owned by a Japanese firm, operated by a Taiwanese shipper, flagged in Panama and now stuck in Egypt, matters quickly become an international morass. Samy Magdy And Jon Gambrell, Chron, "With ship now freed, a probe into Suez Canal blockage begins," 30 Mar. 2021

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

11 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Morass.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for morass



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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