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
Just digging out of the mess will be a challenge for the ages.The Republican Party’s future: Being terrorized by its unhinged base | Paul Waldman | November 20, 2020 | Washington Post
“I made an absolute mess of the kitchen, but the cookies were actually pretty good,” he said.It started as a macho bake-off between dads. Months later, they’ve delivered 15,000 cookies to essential workers. | Sydney Page | November 20, 2020 | Washington Post
The Dallas Cowboys are a mess and on their fourth different starting quarterback of the season.Steelers stay unbeaten, Chargers drop another heartbreaker in NFL Week 9 | Cindy Boren, Mark Maske, Des Bieler | November 9, 2020 | Washington Post
The third presidential debate went much smoother than the first, but it was still somewhat of a mess when it comes to factual accuracy.Science was a big winner—and loser—at this week’s presidential debate | Sara Chodosh | October 23, 2020 | Popular-Science
In the backcountry, you’re almost always going to end up with a mess of meat, bones, and skin on your plate.How to Clean, Cook, and Eat Trout in the Backcountry | Ryan Wichelns | October 15, 2020 | Outside Online
The number of people messing with Texas will mean that Texas will transform into a place like other places.
Lets rap about new feminism, hip-hop and infidelity," she begins, "You got a good girl / Why she messing with a bad guy?Elevator Music Beyoncé Doesn’t Want to Hear: Jay Z’s ‘Mistress’ Drops ‘Sorry Mrs. Carter’ | Amy Zimmerman | August 8, 2014 | THE DAILY BEAST
[Laughs] I had one moment where I had to mix it up with a guy who was messing around with a friend of mine at the bar.Mark Ruffalo Blasts Iraq’s GOP Warmongers, Talks ‘Begin Again’ and ‘Avengers’ | Marlow Stern | June 30, 2014 | THE DAILY BEAST
It boasted a cast that included Debra Messing and Anjelica Huston.How Megan Hilty Survived TV Flops ‘Smash’ and ‘Sean Saves the World’ With Grace | Kevin Fallon | May 8, 2014 | THE DAILY BEAST
You get so much practice and spend so much time on sets messing around.Marc Webb Takes Us Inside ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’ and Discusses His Rise to the A-List | Marlow Stern | March 15, 2014 | THE DAILY BEAST
The house would please her she would enjoy messing about with the decoration, she was very artistic!The Forsyte Saga, Volume I. | John Galsworthy
But it wasn't right to be messing another man's sleep with tidal waves that didn't belong to the other man.The Belted Seas | Arthur Colton
The King slabbed it on with the enjoyment of a child messing with treacle.The Napoleon of Notting Hill | Gilbert K. Chesterton
With regard to officers, stoppages for messing was on the scale already mentioned.Recollections of Thirty-nine Years in the Army | Charles Alexander Gordon
Evening had far advanced when we arrived on our camping-ground; tents were far behind; so were the messing arrangements.Recollections of Thirty-nine Years in the Army | Charles Alexander Gordon
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.