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

Rain had fallen the night before and threatened to turn the road into a slippery morass. David Maurice Smith, Smithsonian, "A 42,000-Year-Old Man Finally Goes Home," 23 Aug. 2019 Into that complex morass enters Justin Amash, who, it should be noted, is fairly used to standing alone even among his Republican colleagues. Jane Coaston, Vox, "David French vs. Sohrab Ahmari and the battle dividing conservatives, explained," 5 June 2019 And as much as Democrats might like to talk about health care, climate change and the minimum wage, their candidate will inevitably be dragged into his sucking morass of conspiracy mongering and tribalism. Molly Ball, Time, "What Do the Democrats Stand For? Inside a Fight Over America's Future," 25 July 2019 Brexit has mired Britain in a constitutional morass of its own. The Economist, "How compatible are democracy and capitalism?," 13 June 2019 The lawsuit drawing Paul Le Roux into this morass was filed in 2018 by Ira Kleiman, the brother of Dave Kleiman—Wright’s friend, fellow computer security guru, and business partner who died in 2013. Evan Ratliff, WIRED, "Was Bitcoin Created by This International Drug Dealer? Maybe!," 16 July 2019 The Great Dismal Swamp was once an impenetrable morass where explorers vanished and runaway slaves escaped. Washington Post, "Coal train derails into Great Dismal Swamp wildlife refuge," 26 June 2019 The entire transfer issue that has roiled college sports over the last year is stuck in a morass of waiver request red tape and unnecessary paperwork, and nothing the NCAA did Wednesday is going to relieve that headache. Dan Wolken, USA TODAY, "Opinion: Time for NCAA to give football, basketball players one-time pass to transfer," 26 June 2019 Over the past 18 months, Google has pushed to improve Chrome extension security—a welcome goal given the sketchy morass of extensions that have been out there for years. Lily Hay Newman, WIRED, "Google Says It Isn't Killing Ad Blockers. Ad Blockers Disagree," 12 June 2019

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

2 Sep 2019

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Time Traveler for morass

The first known use of morass was in 1655

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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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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

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formidable, illustrious, or eminent

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