- a fight, argument, contest, etc., open to everyone and usually without rules.
- any competition or contested situation that is disordered, impulsive, or out of control: a free-for-all at the buffet table.
- Informal. any enterprise or field of endeavor in which various companies, countries, participants, etc., compete without restriction: a price-cutting free-for-all among local stores.
- open to everyone.
Origin of free-for-all
An Americanism dating back to 1880–85
SynonymsSee more synonyms on Thesaurus.com
1. brawl, fracas, scrap, melee, donnybrook.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018
Examples from the Web for free-for-all
What started as a website to promote his run for presidency in hours became a free-for-all for negative commentary.Oops! Putin Creates an Online Forum for Detractors—Then Censors It
January 13, 2012
All we could do was to get into the free-for-all with the others.Shorty McCabe
Then the pair of them were at it in a free-for-all that made the woods ring.Highways in Hiding
George Oliver Smith
I must go as soon as the free-for-all is over, if not before.Lucy Maud Montgomery Short Stories, 1896 to 1901
Lucy Maud Montgomery
It is a regatta, a free-for-all, devil-take-the-hindmost affair.East of Suez
Frederic Courtland Penfield
One never knows what may happen in a free-for-all like this.The Corner House Girls at School
Grace Brooks Hill
- informal a disorganized brawl or argument, usually involving all those present
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
Word Origin and History for free-for-all
"mass brawl" (one in which all may participate), 1881.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper