1 : in mingled confusion or disorder
2 : in confused haste
Did You Know?
The word pell-mell was probably formed through a process called reduplication. The process-which involves the repetition of a word or part of a word, often including a slight change in its pronunciation-also generated such terms as bowwow, helter-skelter, flip-flop, and chitchat. Yet another product of reduplication is shilly-shally, which started out as 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 was likely a product of reduplication from Old French mesle, a form of mesler, meaning "to mix."
After the final bell of the day rang, the pupils bolted from their desks and ran pell-mell out the door into the schoolyard.
"So Congress has been racing pell-mell this month to fix this crisis that’s been simmering for two decades. And what they’ve come up with is a Rube Goldberg contraption even by their usual convoluted standards." - Danny Westneat, Walla Walla Union-Bulletin (Washington), July 18, 2014
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Word Family Quiz
What relative of pell-mell begins with "m" and means "to interest oneself in what is not one's concern"? The answer is …
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