\ ˈmes How to pronounce mess (audio) \

Definition of mess

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a quantity of food:
a archaic : food set on a table at one time
b : a prepared dish of soft food also : a mixture of ingredients cooked or eaten together
c : enough food of a specified kind for a dish or a meal picked a mess of peas for dinner
2a : a group of persons who regularly take their meals together every officer with a unit … is obliged to belong to a mess— S. G. Maurice also : a meal so taken
b : a place where meals are regularly served to a group : mess hall The soldiers marched to the mess for breakfast.
3a : a disordered, untidy, offensive, or unpleasant state or condition your room is in a mess
b : one that is disordered, untidy, offensive, or unpleasant usually because of blundering, laxity, or misconduct [the movie] is a mess, as sloppy in concept as it is in execution— Judith Crist
4 : a large quantity or number They're in a mess of trouble.


messed; messing; messes

Definition of mess (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to provide with meals at a mess
2a : to make dirty or untidy : disarrange often used with up don't mess up your room
b : to mix up : bungle often used with up really messed up my life
3 : to interfere with often used with up magnetic storms that mess up communicationsTime
4 : to rough up : manhandle often used with up mess him up good so he won't cheat us again

intransitive verb

1 : to take meals with a mess
2 : to make a mess
3a : putter, trifle children like to mess around with paints
b : to handle or play with something especially carelessly don't mess with my camera often used with around
c : to take an active interest in something or someone messing around with new video techniques also : interfere, meddle messing in other people's affairs you'd better not mess with me
4 : to become confused or make an error usually used with up

Examples of mess in a Sentence

Noun He was a mess after gardening all day. My hair is a mess. Well, that's another fine mess you've gotten me into! How do we get ourselves into these messes? The school system is a mess. Things were a real mess for a while after she retired. My life is a complete mess. She was a real mess for a while after her divorce. He was a mess during his daughter's wedding ceremony. Verb please don't mess with me while I'm trying to concentrate See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The 2022 edition of the stock market is probably going to be a mess. Brett Owens, Forbes, 4 Aug. 2022 Beyoncé herself might admit that her seventh solo album, Renaissance, is a mess. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, 29 July 2022 The result is a mess of noodles packed with smoky flavor and large chunks of meat. Megha Mcswain, Chron, 22 July 2022 Now that so many supply chains are a mess, people are paying a lot more attention. Willy Shih, WSJ, 22 July 2022 The Angels are a mess again even with a healthy Mike Trout in the lineup most of the season and Ohtani pulling more mind-blowing two-way acts. Los Angeles Times, 16 July 2022 The housing market is still a mess, and small businesses are bearing the brunt of weakness in consumer spending. New York Times, 14 July 2022 True, its most recent season was a mess, and Kevin Costner’s lead performance feels more and more stunted by the hour. Lauren Puckett-pope, ELLE, 13 July 2022 The Beef, full name: The Original Beef of Chicagoland, is a mess, its finances in arrears, equipment failing, drug dealers scaring off customers. Christina Tkacik, Baltimore Sun, 12 July 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb But if mortgage rates fall too quickly, a rebounding housing market could mess up the Fed's inflation fight. Lance Lambert, Fortune, 2 Aug. 2022 High calcium levels can mess with your cardiovascular system too, resulting in high blood pressure and abnormal heart rhythms. Bruce Y. Lee, Forbes, 10 July 2022 And their size — and the size of everything around them, like jumbo-sized ferns in the understory — can mess with your sense of scale. Mary Forgione, Los Angeles Times, 30 June 2022 An aura can mess with your vision, leading to symptoms like flashes of light or blind spots, or physical sensations like tingling on one side of the face or in an arm or leg, according to the Mayo Clinic. Korin Miller, SELF, 16 June 2022 The spring wind that rattled through the dead oak tree didn't mess up his hair, and the light from our foyer didn't sit right on his face, and his shadow was gone. Maureen Lee Lenker,, 22 Mar. 2022 In fact, Kaley believes that the CBS sitcom's creator Chuck Lorre was writing in more hookup scenes just to mess with the duo in real life. Kayla Keegan, Good Housekeeping, 30 Aug. 2021 And one summer my mom had Flowers in the Attic — reading that as a little girl is going to mess up your brain a little bit. Seija Rankin, The Hollywood Reporter, 15 June 2022 Plus, a super old, ineffective pillow can mess with your neck and back. Malia Griggs, SELF, 18 Mar. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'mess.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of mess


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for mess

Noun and Verb

Middle English mes, from Anglo-French, from Late Latin missus course at a meal, from missus, past participle of mittere to put, from Latin, to send — more at smite

Learn More About mess

Time Traveler for mess

Time Traveler

The first known use of mess was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near mess

Mesropian alphabet


mess about

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for mess

Last Updated

7 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Mess.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Aug. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for mess


\ ˈmes How to pronounce mess (audio) \

Kids Definition of mess

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a dirty or untidy state They left things in a mess.
2 : something in a dirty or untidy state Your hair is a mess.
3 : a difficult situation How do you get into these messes?
4 : a group of people (as military personnel) who regularly eat together
5 : a place (as in the military) where meals are served


messed; messing

Kids Definition of mess (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to make dirty or untidy They messed the place up.
2 : to make mistakes in or mix up She messed up the speech.
3 : to become confused or make an error I messed up the first time.
4 : to use or do in an aimless way I messed around on the computer all afternoon.
5 : to handle in a careless way Stop messing with my camera.
6 : to deal with in a way that may cause anger or trouble Don't mess with them.

More from Merriam-Webster on mess

Nglish: Translation of mess for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of mess for Arabic Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Words Named After People

  • name tags
  • Namesake of the leotard, Jules Léotard had what profession?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!