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

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 Would Thug, an avid student of Lil Wayne (whose Barter 6 album title was a provocation to Wayne and his Carter album series), follow his elder into the morass of the awful 2010 butt-rock misfire Rebirth? Craig Jenkins, Vulture, 20 Oct. 2021 The violations have plunged Mrs. Velez, 90 — who is still renting out her basement — into a yearslong morass of fines and bureaucracy. New York Times, 13 Oct. 2021 Too often, our kids become de facto therapists for one another with no loving, reliable adult available to serve as an ally or guide through the morass of images and information offered on Instagram. John Duffy, CNN, 5 Oct. 2021 Until then, Davies and others like him are here to guide us through this current morass of astrophysics. Bruce Dorminey, Forbes, 30 Aug. 2021 All that happened Thursday, though, was a step back into the morass of mediocrity. Ethan Sears, Los Angeles Times, 29 July 2021 Most of the country viewed Mississippi in the early 1960s as an undesirable place mired in a racial morass. Dwight Weingarten, The Christian Science Monitor, 16 Sep. 2021 Why China would want to wade into an Afghan morass may at first seem bewildering. Michael Schuman, The Atlantic, 24 Aug. 2021 Thousands more are stuck in a bureaucratic morass after applying for special visas. New York Times, 15 Aug. 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

26 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Morass.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Nov. 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

More from Merriam-Webster on morass

Nglish: Translation of morass for Spanish Speakers


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