[ mes ]
See synonyms for: messmessedmessesmessing on

  1. a dirty, untidy, or disordered condition: The room was in a mess.

  2. a person or thing that is dirty, untidy, or disordered.

  1. a state of embarrassing confusion: My affairs are in a mess.

  2. an unpleasant or difficult situation: She got into a mess driving without a license.

  3. a dirty or untidy mass, litter, or jumble: a mess of papers.

  4. a group regularly taking their meals together.

  5. the meal so taken.

  6. Naval. messroom.

  7. a quantity of food sufficient for a dish or a single occasion: to pick a mess of sweet corn for dinner.

  8. a sloppy or unappetizing preparation of food.

  9. a dish or quantity of soft or liquid food: to cook up a nice mess of pottage.

  10. a person whose life or affairs are in a state of confusion, especially a person with a confused or disorganized moral or psychological outlook.

verb (used with object)
  1. to make dirty or untidy (often followed by up): Don't mess the room.

  2. to make a mess or muddle of (affairs, responsibilities, etc.) (often followed by up): They messed the deal.

  1. to supply with meals, as military personnel.

  2. to treat roughly; beat up (usually followed by up): The gang messed him up.

verb (used without object)
  1. to eat in company, especially as a member of a mess.

  2. to make a dirty or untidy mess.

Verb Phrases
  1. 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.

  2. mess in / with to intervene officiously; meddle: You'll get no thanks for messing in the affairs of others.

  1. 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

First recorded in 1250–1300; Middle English mes, from Old French: “course at a meal,” from Late Latin missus “(something) sent” (i.e., put on the table), noun use of past participle of Latin mittere “to send”

Other words for mess

Opposites for mess

Words Nearby mess Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use mess in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for mess


/ (mɛs) /

  1. a state of confusion or untidiness, esp if dirty or unpleasant: the house was in a mess

  2. a chaotic or troublesome state of affairs; muddle: his life was a mess

  1. informal a dirty or untidy person or thing

  2. archaic a portion of food, esp soft or semiliquid food

  3. a place where service personnel eat or take recreation: an officers' mess

  4. a group of people, usually servicemen, who eat together

  5. the meal so taken

  6. mess of pottage a material gain involving the sacrifice of a higher value

  1. (tr often foll by up) to muddle or dirty

  2. (intr) to make a mess

  1. (intr often foll by with) to interfere; meddle

  2. (intr; often foll by with or together) military to group together, esp for eating

Origin of mess

C13: from Old French mes dish of food, from Late Latin missus course (at table), from Latin mittere to send forth, set out

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

Other Idioms and Phrases with mess


In addition to the idioms beginning with mess

  • mess around
  • mess up
  • mess with

also see:

  • get into trouble (a mess)
  • make a hash (mess) of

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