\ 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 Greek salads are often a big mess of pre-prepared ingredients, but at Nerai they are pleasingly made to order ($22) with tomatoes, feta, cucumber, onions, olives and tomato butter, although tomatoes are far from their best this time of year. John Mariani, Forbes, 8 June 2022 The next wave was a foamy mess, and Chumbo hit it sideways. William Finnegan, The New Yorker, 23 May 2022 Mouthwateringly simple, the City of Brotherly Love's most beloved sandwich is a delectable hot mess layered with ribeye steak sliced thin, oozing sheets of provolone and sauteed peppers and onions to your liking. Terry Ward, CNN, 11 May 2022 The roots will likely be a tangled mess, so carefully straighten them, remove any lingering potting medium and then submerge the roots briefly into the bowl of water to determine which are dead and need to be trimmed off. Los Angeles Times, 27 Apr. 2022 These undigested foods suck water into the GI tract, and a result is often a watery mess. New York Times, 14 Apr. 2022 The rows of porta-potties, shared by thousands of quarantined people, were an unsanitary mess. Tiffany Ap, Quartz, 13 Apr. 2022 By the time Holcomb got there, 20 minutes after the tornado warning alert, his home was a mangled mess of drywall, insulation, wiring and wood. Annie Blanks, San Antonio Express-News, 22 Mar. 2022 The whole thing was a delicious mess, and that was part of the fun. Andi Berlin, The Arizona Republic, 12 Mar. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb 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 Notifications can seriously mess with your flow when trying to get things done. Kim Komando, USA TODAY, 10 Feb. 2022 Unsurprisingly, your colleagues may sometimes mess something up at work—or even be short-tempered. Sian Beilock, Fortune, 10 Feb. 2022 Again, the Moon’s brilliance might mess with this year’s Ursid meteor shower. Chris Smith, BGR, 21 Dec. 2021 Over-washing, harsh cleansers, using the wrong products for your skin type: Dr. Nazarian cites these common mistakes as surefire ways to mess with the microbiome. Rachel Krause,, 11 Apr. 2022 Kalb wasn’t the only one to mess with barbecue, though at least other contestants didn’t have the disrespect to offend with their words. Lauren Mcdowell, Chron, 31 Mar. 2022 The attitude is as follows: If times are good, why mess up a good thing? WSJ, 17 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

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Statistics for mess

Last Updated

20 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Mess.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Jun. 2022.

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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


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