: in mingled confusion or disorder
papers strewn pell-mell on the desk
: in confused haste
ran pell-mell for the door
pell-mell adjective or noun

Did you know?

The word pell-mell was probably formed through a process called reduplication. This process—which involves the repetition of a word or part of a word, with often a slight change in its form—also generated the terms flip-flop, chitchat, and shilly-shally, the last of which comes from a single-word compression of the question “Shall I?” For pell-mell, the process is believed to have occurred long ago: our word traces to a Middle French word of the same meaning, pelemele, which comes from the Old French word pesle mesle, likely a product of reduplication from the Old French word mesle, a form of mesler, meaning “to mix” or “to mingle.”

Examples of pell-mell in a Sentence

tossed stuff pell-mell into the dorm room ran pell-mell down the road to get help
Recent Examples on the Web Ministry is not nearly as proficient as Chad Stahelski’s John Wick 4 or Matthias Schweighöfer’s Army of Thieves, but the pell-mell combat scenes are consistently cartoonish. Armond White, National Review, 19 Apr. 2024 America saw a pell-mell downsizing of gas-guzzling vehicles and a simultaneous ramping up of imports of fuel-efficient Japanese cars. Jim Krane, Fortune, 12 Oct. 2023 The brokers surged out of the exchange, stumbling pell-mell over each other in the general confusion, and reached their respective offices in racehorse time. Mickey Butts, Smithsonian Magazine, 18 Sep. 2023 If whether, in the pell-mell rush to embrace the color — to reclaim it as a triumph of ironic feminism — the Barbie hype has sowed the seeds of pink’s destruction. Vanessa Friedman, New York Times, 24 July 2023 Allowing children to run pell-mell in the dark, on uneven ground, holding an incendiary device near their face is simply not safe. The Indianapolis Star, 27 June 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'pell-mell.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle French pelemele

First Known Use

1590, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of pell-mell was in 1590


Dictionary Entries Near pell-mell

Cite this Entry

“Pell-mell.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


: in confusion or disorder
: in great haste
pell-mell adjective

More from Merriam-Webster on pell-mell

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