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  • IPA(key): /mɛs/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɛs

Etymology 1Edit

Perhaps a corruption of Middle English mesh (for mash), compare muss, or derived from Etymology 1 "mixed foods, as for animals".


mess (countable and uncountable, plural messes)

  1. A disagreeable mixture or confusion of things; hence, a situation resulting from blundering or from misunderstanding; a disorder.
    He made a mess of it.
    My bedroom is such a mess; I need to tidy up.
  2. (colloquial) A large quantity or number.
    My boss dumped a whole mess of projects on my desk today.
    She brought back a mess of fish to fix for supper.
  3. (euphemistic) Excrement.
    There was dog mess all along the street.
    Parked under a tree, my car was soon covered in birds' mess.
  4. (figuratively) A person in a state of (especially emotional) turmoil or disarray; an emotional wreck.
    Between the pain and the depression, I'm a mess.
    He's been a mess and a half ever since you excommunicated him.


mess (third-person singular simple present messes, present participle messing, simple past and past participle messed)

  1. (transitive, often used with up) To make untidy or dirty.
    1. To make soiled by defecating.
  2. (transitive, often used with up) To throw into disorder or to ruin.
    • (Can we date this quote?), Scribner's Magazine
      It wasn't right either to be messing another man's sleep.
  3. (intransitive) To interfere.
    This doesn't concern you. Don't mess.
  4. (used with with) screw around with, to bother, to be annoying with
    Stop messing with me!


Derived termsEdit

Etymology 2Edit

From Middle English mes, partly from Old English mēse, mēose (table); and partly from Old French mes, Late Latin missum, from mittō (to put, place (e.g. on the table)). See mission, and compare Mass (religious service).


mess (plural messes)

  1. (obsolete) Mass; a church service.
  2. (archaic) A quantity of food set on a table at one time; provision of food for a person or party for one meal; also, the food given to an animal at one time.
    A mess of pottage.
    • (Can we date this quote?) John Milton
      At their savoury dinner set / Of herbs and other country messes.
  3. A number of persons who eat together, and for whom food is prepared in common, especially military personnel who eat at the same table.
    the wardroom mess
  4. A building or room in which mess is eaten.
    • 1956, Anthony Burgess, Time for a Tiger (The Malayan Trilogy), published 1972, page 20:
      The police mess had formerly been a maternity home for the wives of the Sultans of the state. Faded and tatty, peeling, floorboards eaten and unpolished, its philoprogenitive glory was a memory only.
  5. A set of four (from the old practice of dividing companies into sets of four at dinner).
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Latimer to this entry?)
  6. (US) The milk given by a cow at one milking.
Derived termsEdit
Further readingEdit


mess (third-person singular simple present messes, present participle messing, simple past and past participle messed)

  1. (intransitive) To take meals with a mess.
  2. (intransitive) To belong to a mess.
  3. (intransitive) To eat (with others).
    • 1836, George Simpson & al., HBC Standing Rules and Regulations, §18:
      Resolved 18. That no Guide or Interpreter whether at the Factory Depot or Inland be permitted to mess with Commissioned Gentlemen or Clerks in charge of Posts; but while at the Depot they will be allowed per Week 4 days ordinary rations...
    I mess with the wardroom officers.
  4. (transitive) To supply with a mess.

Further readingEdit





From Old Irish mes. Cognate with Irish meas (fruit, mast)



mess m (genitive singular mess, plural messyn)

  1. (botany) fruit

Derived termsEdit


Manx mutation
Radical Lenition Eclipsis
mess vess unchanged
Note: Some of these forms may be hypothetical. Not every
possible mutated form of every word actually occurs.

Norwegian BokmålEdit



  1. imperative of messe



mess n

  1. brass

Related termsEdit