- 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.
- mess hall.
- Naval. messroom.
- 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.
verb (used with object)
- 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.
verb (used without object)
- 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.
- mess up,
- to make dirty, untidy, or disordered.
- to make muddled, confused, etc.; make a mess of; spoil; botch.
- to perform poorly; bungle: She messed up on the final exam.
- a state of confusion or untidiness, esp if dirty or unpleasantthe house was in a mess
- a chaotic or troublesome state of affairs; muddlehis 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 recreationan 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
n.c.1300, “food for one meal, pottage,” from Old French mes “portion of food, course at dinner,” from Late Latin missus “course at dinner,” literally “a placing, a putting (on a table, etc.),” from past participle of mittere “to put, place,” in classical Latin “to send, let go” (see mission). Meaning “communal eating place” (especially a military one) is first attested 1530s, from earlier sense of “company of persons eating together” (early 15c.), originally a group of four. Sense of “mixed food,” especially for animals, (1738) led to contemptuous use for “jumble, mixed mass” (1828) and figurative sense of “state of confusion” (1834), as well as “condition of untidiness” (1851). General use for “a quantity” of anything is attested by 1830. Meaning “excrement” (of animals) is from 1903. v.late 14c., “serve up in portions,” from mess (n.). Meaning “take one’s meals” is from 1701; that of “make a mess” is from 1853. Related: Messed; messing. To mess with “interfere, get involved” is from 1903; mess up “make a mistake, get in trouble” is from 1933 (earlier” make a mess of,” 1909), both originally American English colloquial. Interfere or associate with; also, annoy, bother. For example, Our group won’t mess with those street musicians, or I told him not to mess with me or there would be trouble. [Colloquial; c. 1900] In addition to the idioms beginning with mess