sham·bles | \ˈsham-bəlz \

Definition of shambles 

1 archaic : a meat market

3a : a place of mass slaughter or bloodshed the battlefield became a shambles

b : a scene or a state of great destruction : wreckage the city was a shambles after the bombing

c(1) : a scene or a state of great disorder or confusion an economy in shambles

(2) : great confusion : mess

Examples of shambles in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

The party is in a shambles in Southern California, one of its key regions for regaining control of the House. Andrew Sullivan, Daily Intelligencer, "Is the World Done With Liberal Democracy?," 1 June 2018 With his transcript in shambles, Joe went back to the Philadelphia area where his family lived and took a job at a paper company alongside his father. Jim Stingl, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Stingl: Marquette University dropout in 1974 finally went back and is graduating at age 65," 18 May 2018 There has, moreover, been no giant spasm of regret over Brexit, even with the negotiations in a complete shambles. Andrew Sullivan, Daily Intelligencer, "Is the World Done With Liberal Democracy?," 1 June 2018 The once-harmonious bond between franchise and city was a shambles. Jack Harris, azcentral, "Before Arizona snagged 2023 Super Bowl, Cardinals and Glendale had to make up," 30 May 2018 Goalkeepers Who's Hot Loris Karius - Liverpool may be something of a shambles at the back but Karius kept a clean sheet against Huddersfield before saving Harry Kane's first penalty on Sunday., "Premier League Fantasy Football: Who's Hot and Who's Not in Gameweek 27," 9 Feb. 2018 While Conte's title defence at Chelsea has been a shambles, Sarri has come under fire from Napoli owner Aurelio De Laurentiis over a lack of rotation allowing Juventus to increase their lead over Serie A to six points., "'There Are Ways Out for Both Parties': Chelsea Target Sarri Hints at Possible Napoli Departure," 7 May 2018 Before the lawsuit could be adjudicated, Hurricanes Irma and Maria struck, leaving all financial planning in a shambles. Mary Williams Walsh, New York Times, "Hurricane Aid Has Eased Puerto Rico’s Finances. It May Not Be Enough.," 19 Apr. 2018 El Inca Venezuelan boxer Edwin Valero held two world titles and never lost a fight, but his private life was a shambles: in April 2010, at age 28, he was arrested for the murder of his wife and hanged himself in his jail cell. Ben Sachs, Chicago Reader, "The wall’s gonna fall at the Chicago Latino Film Festival," 5 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'shambles.' 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 shambles

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for shambles

Middle English shameles, plural of schamel vendor's table, footstool, from Old English sceamol stool, from Latin scamillum, diminutive of scamnum stool, bench; perhaps akin to Sanskrit skambha pillar

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about shambles

Dictionary Entries near shambles








Statistics for shambles

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for shambles

The first known use of shambles was in the 15th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for shambles



English Language Learners Definition of shambles

: a place or state in which there is great confusion, disorder, or destruction


noun plural
sham·bles | \ˈsham-bəlz \

Kids Definition of shambles

: a place or scene of disorder or destruction After the party, the house was a shambles.

Hint: Shambles can be used as a singular or a plural in writing and speaking.

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on shambles

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for shambles

Spanish Central: Translation of shambles

Nglish: Translation of shambles for Spanish Speakers

Comments on shambles

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


exaggeratedly or childishly emotional

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words from Greek and Roman Mythology Quiz

  • the-triumph-of-venus-by-alessandro-magnasco
  • Boreal comes from the name of the ancient Greek god of which wind?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Add Diction

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!