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[mey-hem, mey-uh m] /ˈmeɪ hɛm, ˈmeɪ əm/
Law. the crime of willfully inflicting a bodily injury on another so as to make the victim less capable of self-defense or, under modern statutes, so as to cripple or mutilate the victim.
random or deliberate violence or damage.
a state of rowdy disorder:
Antagonisms between the various factions at the meeting finally boiled over, and mayhem ensued.
Origin of mayhem
1350-1400; Middle English maheym, maim < Anglo-French mahe(i)m, mahaim < Germanic; akin to Middle High German meidem gelding, Old Norse meitha to injure. See maim
Can be confused
maim, mayhem (see synonym study at maim) Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for mayhem
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • It did not seem possible, mayhem thought now, that a mistake could be made.

    A Place in the Sun C.H. Thames
  • Something, mayhem decided, had come up during transmigration.

    A Place in the Sun C.H. Thames
  • mayhem dabbed at his Sirian forehead gratefully, mopping at sweat.

  • mayhem's answer was a question, but the question didn't really require an answer.

    World Beyond Pluto C. H. Thames
  • The whole galaxy, let alone the solar system, knew the mayhem legend.

    World Beyond Pluto C. H. Thames
British Dictionary definitions for mayhem


(law) the wilful and unlawful infliction of injury upon a person, esp (formerly) the injuring or removing of a limb rendering him less capable of defending himself against attack
any violent destruction or confusion
Word Origin
C15: from Anglo-French mahem injury, from Germanic; related to Icelandic meitha to hurt. See maim
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
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Word Origin and History for mayhem

late 15c., from Anglo-French maihem (13c.), from Old French mahaigne "injury, wrong, a hurt, harm, damage;" related to mahaignier "to injure, wound, mutilate, cripple" (see maim). Originally, in law, the crime of maiming a person "to make him less able to defend himself or annoy his adversary" [OED].

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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