[mey-hem, mey-uh m]


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 confusedmaim mayhem (see synonym study at maim) Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for mayhem

Contemporary Examples of mayhem

Historical Examples of mayhem

  • Something, Mayhem decided, had come up during transmigration.

  • It did not seem possible, Mayhem thought now, that a mistake could be made.

  • 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

  • But of course no one knew precisely when Mayhem's services might be required.

    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 for mayhem

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

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