a. A cluttered, untidy, usually dirty place or condition: The kitchen was a mess.
b. Something that is disorderly or dirty, as a accumulation or heap: Who left the mess on the kitchen floor?
a. A confused, troubling, or embarrassing condition or situation: With divorce and bankruptcy proceedings pending, his personal life was in a mess.
b. One that is in such a condition: They made a mess of their marriage. Her boyfriend is a real mess.
a. An amount of food, as for a meal, course, or dish: cooked up a mess of fish.
b. A serving of soft, semiliquid food: a mess of porridge.
a. A group of people, usually soldiers or sailors, who regularly eat meals together.
b. Food or a meal served to such a group: took mess with the enlistees.
c. A mess hall.
v. messed, mess·ing, mess·es
To make disorderly or dirty: The wind has messed your hair. The puppy messed the floor.
1. To cause or make a mess.
2. To intrude; interfere: messing in the neighbors' affairs.
3. To take a meal in a military mess.
mess around (or about)
1. To pass time aimlessly or frivolously.
2. To associate casually or playfully: liked to mess around with pals on days off.
3. To be sexually unfaithful.
1. To botch; bungle: messed up the entire project.
2. To make a mistake, especially from nervousness or confusion: messed up and dropped the ball.
3. Slang To beat up; manhandle: got messed up in a brawl.
4. To cause to be confused or troubled: The divorce really messed him up.
1. To use or handle something carelessly; fiddle: messed with the remote until he broke it.
2. To fight or get into conflict with: I wouldn't mess with him—he knows judo.
3. To tease or play a joke on: Don't let that remark bother you—she's just messing with you.
[Middle English mes, course of a meal, food, group of people eating together, from Old French, from Late Latin missus, from Latin, past participle of mittere, to place.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.