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[mes-ee] /ˈmɛs i/
adjective, messier, messiest.
characterized by a dirty, untidy, or disordered condition:
a messy room.
causing a mess:
a messy recipe; messy work.
embarrassing, difficult, or unpleasant:
a messy political situation.
characterized by moral or psychological confusion.
Origin of messy
First recorded in 1835-45; mess + -y1
Related forms
messiness, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for messy
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • It's much better you didn't recognise us; these boiler explosions are so messy.

    The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson
  • Thousands of other planets will gain the settlers that messy Row loses.

    Mezzerow Loves Company Floyd L. Wallace
  • That was messy; but we wanted to be hospitable, so we didn't say anything.

    Pluck on the Long Trail

    Edwin L. Sabin
  • Sorry to sacrifice you, honey, but the other way is just too messy.

    The Deadly Daughters Winston K. Marks
  • And if he's at all messy about it, I give you leave to roll him downstairs.

British Dictionary definitions for messy


adjective messier, messiest
dirty, confused, or untidy
Derived Forms
messily, adverb
messiness, noun
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 messy

1843, "untidy," from mess (n.) + -y (2). Figurative use ("unethical") by 1924. Related: Messily; messiness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for messy



  1. Confused; chaotic; fucked up
  2. Nasty; dirty: There'll be a lot of messy publicity about this (1940s+)
The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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