- a dirty, untidy, or disordered condition: The room was in a mess.
- a person or thing that is dirty, untidy, or disordered.
- a state of embarrassing confusion: My affairs are in a mess.
- an unpleasant or difficult situation: She got into a mess driving without a license.
- a dirty or untidy mass, litter, or jumble: a mess of papers.
- a group regularly taking their meals together.
- the meal so taken.
- mess hall.
- Naval. messroom.
- a quantity of food sufficient for a dish or a single occasion: to pick a mess of sweet corn for dinner.
- a sloppy or unappetizing preparation of food.
- a dish or quantity of soft or liquid food: to cook up a nice mess of pottage.
- a person whose life or affairs are in a state of confusion, especially a person with a confused or disorganized moral or psychological outlook.
- to make dirty or untidy (often followed by up): Don't mess the room.
- to make a mess or muddle of (affairs, responsibilities, etc.) (often followed by up): They messed the deal.
- to supply with meals, as military personnel.
- to treat roughly; beat up (usually followed by up): The gang messed him up.
- to eat in company, especially as a member of a mess.
- to make a dirty or untidy mess.
- mess around/about,
- Informal.to busy oneself without purpose or plan; work aimlessly or halfheartedly; putter.
- Informal.to waste time; loaf.
- Informal.to meddle or interfere.
- Informal.to involve or associate oneself, especially for immoral or unethical purposes: His wife accused him of messing around with gamblers.
- Slang.to trifle sexually; philander.
- mess in/with, to intervene officiously; meddle: You'll get no thanks for messing in the affairs of others.
- mess up,
- to make dirty, untidy, or disordered.
- to make muddled, confused, etc.; make a mess of; spoil; botch.
- to perform poorly; bungle: She messed up on the final exam.
Origin of mess
SynonymsSee more synonyms on Thesaurus.com
Examples from the Web for mess
Texas has always had a sense of place—that is why we are told not to mess with it.Will Texas Stay Texan?
December 29, 2014
It was being the riskiest studio in Hollywood that got Sony into this mess in the first place.Sony: Hollywood’s Most Subversive Studio Under Attack
December 23, 2014
In fact, that candy store is heavy industry, with all the mess that entails.New York’s Conservative Fracking Ban
December 20, 2014
“The idea was to mess with the concept of Christmas,” recalled John Law, an original Cacophony member.Before the Bros, SantaCon Was as an Anti-Corporate Protest
December 12, 2014
“Every time you see me, you want to mess with me,” Garner exclaimed, short of breath.Before Eric Garner, There Was Michael Stewart: The Tragic Story of the Real-Life Radio Raheem
December 4, 2014
Never would I have believed that I could make such a mess of it.The Bacillus of Beauty
Put the desks straight first; what a mess you get them into.The Channings
Mrs. Henry Wood
I then came into a district of mess halls where a meal was being served.City of Endless Night
It's the only safe way that I can see out of this mess of a harbor we've got.The Harbor
ESAU, an ancient who sold his birthright for a mess of breakfast food.Who Was Who: 5000 B. C. to Date
- a state of confusion or untidiness, esp if dirty or unpleasantthe house was in a mess
- a chaotic or troublesome state of affairs; muddlehis life was a mess
- informal a dirty or untidy person or thing
- archaic a portion of food, esp soft or semiliquid food
- a place where service personnel eat or take recreationan officers' mess
- a group of people, usually servicemen, who eat together
- the meal so taken
- mess of pottage a material gain involving the sacrifice of a higher value
- (tr often foll by up) to muddle or dirty
- (intr) to make a mess
- (intr often foll by with) to interfere; meddle
- (intr; often foll by with or together) military to group together, esp for eating
Word Origin and History for mess
c.1300, "food for one meal, pottage," from Old French mes "portion of food, course at dinner," from Late Latin missus "course at dinner," literally "a placing, a putting (on a table, etc.)," from past participle of mittere "to put, place," in classical Latin "to send, let go" (see mission).
Meaning "communal eating place" (especially a military one) is first attested 1530s, from earlier sense of "company of persons eating together" (early 15c.), originally a group of four. Sense of "mixed food," especially for animals, (1738) led to contemptuous use for "jumble, mixed mass" (1828) and figurative sense of "state of confusion" (1834), as well as "condition of untidiness" (1851). General use for "a quantity" of anything is attested by 1830. Meaning "excrement" (of animals) is from 1903.
late 14c., "serve up in portions," from mess (n.). Meaning "take one's meals" is from 1701; that of "make a mess" is from 1853. Related: Messed; messing. To mess with "interfere, get involved" is from 1903; mess up "make a mistake, get in trouble" is from 1933 (earlier" make a mess of," 1909), both originally American English colloquial.