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.
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.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023
How to use mess in a sentence
The upcoming US presidential election seems set to be something of a mess—to put it lightly.Microsoft’s New Deepfake Detector Puts Reality to the Test | Vanessa Bates Ramirez | September 4, 2020 | Singularity Hub
Cleanup also has to be simple, because when your vehicle is full, even small greasy messes can create big problems.5 Portable Grills for All Your Outdoor Cooking Needs | Amy Marturana Winderl | September 2, 2020 | Outside Online
“I just thought it was extremely odd to, say the least – just a way to mess with the homeless and those that need the discount,” Sheetz said.MTS Frequently Overrules Doctors’ Orders on Reduced Fares for the Disabled | Lisa Halverstadt | August 31, 2020 | Voice of San Diego
Work and life were colliding in ways that it was impossible to stay organized and looking at the mess while I was watching TV on the couch was making me more stressed out.
Make the easy into a festering mess of sweat and cursing and they’ll mosey along.
Texas has always had a sense of place—that is why we are told not to mess with it.
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 | Marlow Stern | December 23, 2014 | THE DAILY BEAST
In fact, that candy store is heavy industry, with all the mess that entails.
There was The Brittany Murphy Story, dubbed a “colossal mess” by reviewers.The Biggest Bombs of 2014: ‘Sex Tape,’ Mariah Carey’s Vocals, ‘How I Met Your Mother’ and More | Kevin Fallon | December 19, 2014 | THE DAILY BEAST
“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 | David Freedlander | December 12, 2014 | THE DAILY BEAST
If Wee Willie Winkie took an interest in anyone, the fortunate man was envied alike by the mess and the rank and file.Kipling Stories and Poems Every Child Should Know, Book II | Rudyard Kipling
And yet they tell me he was a pleasant enough fellow in the mess, this Brigadier, and liked good cooking.
Coming back along the well-beaten sandy track, my heart sank to see our mess tent still lit up at midnight.Gallipoli Diary, Volume I | Ian Hamilton
Coming back found mess tent brilliantly lit up and my staff entertaining their friends.Gallipoli Diary, Volume I | Ian Hamilton
I shall make an unholy mess of things if I'm left alone, and if you like I'll keep you on here.The Everlasting Arms | Joseph Hocking
British Dictionary definitions for mess
a state of confusion or untidiness, esp if dirty or unpleasant: the house was in a mess
a chaotic or troublesome state of affairs; muddle: his 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 recreation: an 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
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
- 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.