noun (functioning as singular or plural)
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Word Origin for shambles
Words nearby shambles
What does shambles mean?
A shambles is a place, situation, or other thing that’s in complete disorder.
When shambles refers to a place, it typically indicates that it’s a mess or, more seriously, that it’s a scene of destruction, wreckage, or even carnage. When it refers to a situation, it indicates that it has fallen into chaos.
The word is especially used in the phrase in shambles or in a shambles. Shambles can be considered singular or plural (meaning it can be used with a singular or plural verb).
Originally, shambles refer to a slaughterhouse or a place where meat is sold (more about that later).
Example: I have a puppy and three toddlers, so my house is frequently in shambles.
Where does shambles come from?
It may be surprising that a word associated with utter chaos derives from a word simply meaning “stool” or “table”—the Middle English shamel, ultimately from the Latin scamnum, “bench”. (The verb shamble, meaning “to shuffle or walk awkwardly,” derives from the same root, perhaps in reference to the legs of such tables.) The first records of shambles come from before the 900s, and back then the word simply referred to a stool. It came to be used to refer to a table where goods were sold. Then, it became associated with tables specifically used to display meats for sale. Later, it came to be used to mean “a meat market” and then “a slaughterhouse.” From there, it got more figurative, referring to a scene of carnage—like a battlefield after a battle. Eventually, it took on meanings referring to destruction, devastation, ruin, disorder, and extreme messiness.
Shambles is still sometimes used to refer to scenes of carnage or destruction, such as a city that’s been heavily damaged by a natural disaster like an earthquake or hurricane. More commonly, shambles is applied to scenes or situations involving disorder. An economy that’s said to be inshambles is one that is not functioning at all as it should, such as during the Great Depression. A company that’s a shambles is in complete disarray, and perhaps on the verge of bankruptcy. If someone says their life is in shambles, they mean it’s chaotic—nothing is going right. Perhaps most commonly and least seriously, shambles is simply used to refer to a mess. A person might refer to their house as a shambles during a renovation project or simply when it’s messy because it hasn’t been tidied up or organized in a long time.
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How is shambles used in real life?
Now the blind that covers my shelf fell off the wall. screws and all. the place is a shambles. oh and still no shower.
— Sanna Dyker (@sannadyker) June 26, 2010
The house is a shambles when my mums not here
— 🧇 (@masumat1__) March 10, 2020
— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) September 15, 2018
Try using shambles!
Which of the following would NOT be considered a shambles?
A. a heavily damaged house
B. an incredibly messy garage
C. a brand new car
D. a strategy that has fallen into chaos
Example sentences from the Web for shambles
And as a guarantee of a Third World economy in shambles, Scotland is oil-rich.Up to a Point: A Free Scotland Would Be a Hilarious Disaster|P. J. O’Rourke|September 13, 2014|DAILY BEAST
The unity government that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas established with Hamas is now in shambles.There Is No Moral Equivalent to the Murder of Three Israeli Teenagers|Thane Rosenbaum|July 2, 2014|DAILY BEAST
But even the most ardent supporters of negotiations with the Taliban recognize that the so-called peace process is in shambles.
Brilliant as he is in the courtroom, his self-destructive personality leaves his personal life in shambles.Fall-Winter TV Preview: Snap Judgments of 2013–14’s New Shows|Jace Lacob, Kevin Fallon|July 16, 2013|DAILY BEAST
The fatherland is a shambles, Bolivarian socialism has failed, and Comandante Chávez is dead.
Here, then, we have the construction of the Abyss and the shambles.The People of the Abyss|Jack London
The freemen of the North are responsible for it equally with the traffickers in flesh who haunt the shambles of the South.Charles Sumner; His Complete Works, Volume III (of 20)|Charles Sumner
The spot in the grass which they had just escaped from was a shambles.In the Morning of Time|Charles G. D. Roberts
The place was becoming a shambles where the blood of attackers and attacked mingled horribly in the gloom.Darkness and Dawn|George Allan England
The anticipation of that first blow dragged her as the butcher drags his sheep to the shambles.Sally Bishop|E. Temple Thurston