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[mis-chif] /ˈmɪs tʃɪf/
conduct or activity that playfully causes petty annoyance.
a tendency or disposition to tease, vex, or annoy.
a vexatious or annoying action.
harm or trouble, especially as a result of an agent or cause.
an injury or evil caused by a person or other agent or cause.
a cause or source of harm, evil, or annoyance.
the devil.
Origin of mischief
1250-1300; Middle English meschef < Old French, noun derivative of meschever to end badly, come to grief. See mis-1, achieve
4. hurt.
Synonym Study
4. See damage. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for mischief
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • She was smiling now, and he caught a gleam of mischief in her eyes.

    Viviette William J. Locke
  • You are like two kittens, and might be in mischief or danger before you knew.

    Weighed and Wanting George MacDonald
  • And yet is talk a less evil than the mischief of mere experimenters.

    Weighed and Wanting George MacDonald
  • She had thought of sending a telegram, but saw that that might do mischief.

    Weighed and Wanting George MacDonald
  • That scoundrel Corney has been about some mischief—damn him!

    Weighed and Wanting George MacDonald
British Dictionary definitions for mischief


wayward but not malicious behaviour, usually of children, that causes trouble, irritation, etc
a playful inclination to behave in this way or to tease or disturb
injury or harm caused by a person or thing
a person, esp a child, who is mischievous
a source of trouble, difficulty, etc: floods are a great mischief to the farmer
Word Origin
C13: from Old French meschief disaster, from meschever to meet with calamity; from mes-mis-1 + chever to reach an end, from chef end, chief
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 mischief

c.1300, "evil condition, misfortune, need, want," from Old French meschief "misfortune, harm, trouble; annoyance, vexation" (12c., Modern French méchef), verbal noun from meschever "come or bring to grief, be unfortunate" (opposite of achieve), from mes- "badly" (see mis- (2)) + chever "happen, come to a head," from Vulgar Latin *capare "head," from Latin caput "head" (see capitulum). Meaning "harm or evil considered as the work of some agent or due to some cause" is from late 15c. Sense of "playful malice" first recorded 1784.

Mischief Night in 19c. England was the eve of May Day and of Nov. 5, both major holidays, and perhaps the original point was pilfering for the next day's celebration and bonfire; but in Yorkshire, Scotland, and Ireland the night was Halloween. The useful Middle English verb mischieve (early 14c.) has, for some reason, fallen from currency.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Idioms and Phrases with mischief


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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