adjective, mess·i·er, mess·i·est.

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 formsmess·i·ness, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for messiness

disorganization, untidiness, slovenliness

Examples from the Web for messiness

Contemporary Examples of messiness

  • Academics used to push politicians to see truth clearly—in all its messiness.

    The Daily Beast logo
    McGill's Judith Butler Bungle

    Gil Troy

    May 24, 2013

  • These nuns are far more enmeshed in the world, with all its messiness and ambiguities, than the male hierarchy is.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Rebel Nuns

    Michelle Goldberg

    May 21, 2010

  • Progressives hate the messiness of this, preferring the direct application of reason by the intelligent elite.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Why Partisan Bickering Works

    Tunku Varadarajan

    February 23, 2010

  • The unwritten rule of luxury goods marketing is to rise above the messiness of the moment.

Historical Examples of messiness

  • But in spite of the messiness, it was the best food he had eaten in days.

    The Time Traders

    Andre Norton

  • The messiness of the place merely made the madness of the whole program seem worse.

    The Fourth R

    George Oliver Smith

British Dictionary definitions for messiness


adjective messier or messiest

dirty, confused, or untidy
Derived Formsmessily, adverbmessiness, 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

Word Origin and History for messiness



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

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper