noun[usually in singular]
- 1A dirty or untidy state of things or of a place: she made a mess of the kitchen my hair was a messMore example sentences
- Go to Paddy's shed to avoid making a mess of the kitchen.
- Each time you host a party at home, it's a total mess in the kitchen due to last minute preparations.
- The kitchen is a mess and I walked in, took one look around and walked out.
- 1.1A thing or collection of things causing a dirty or untidy state: she replaced the jug and mopped up the messMore example sentences
- Residents of Speedwell Road, Old Heath, were disgusted after Colchester Council refuse collectors left the mess in their wake yesterday morning.
- Dog bins were to be specially built and extra money put towards collection of the mess.
- Mr. Sims, the drama teacher, crawled on the floor, trying to collect the mess.
- 1.2A person who is dirty or untidy: I look a messMore example sentences
- Two nights and three days on a smoky train, I was a real mess by the time I got to Matagorda.
- She looked like a real mess, her long hair all spread around, her make up destroyed, giving her the look of a monster.
- I want to ride every hour of the waking day, but after a month of riding, just an hour turns me into a sweating, out-of-breath, pathetic mess.
- 1.3 [with modifier] Used euphemistically to refer to the excrement of a domestic animal: dog messMore example sentences
- Police say he is responsible for pushing dog mess through letterboxes, smashing windows, damaging cars, pelting people with eggs and assaulting other youngsters.
- According to a couple who spoke to Coun Kaye about dog mess, he told them as he left: ‘You can't educate the working class.’
- One said that the problem of dog mess had been overshadowed by abandoned condoms, empty alcohol containers and remnants of glue sniffing, which had been left of the recreation field.
- 2A situation that is confused and full of problems: the economy is still in a terrible messMore example sentences
plight, predicament, emergency, tight spot, tight corner, difficulty, straits, trouble, quandary, dilemma, problem, muddle, mix-up, confusion, complication, imbroglio, entanglement, miremuddle, botch, bungle, wreckBritish • informal cock-upNorth American • informal snafu
- The situation is a mess, and a confusing one, but there is no point in even talking about changing it.
- They already knew that the giant had feet of clay: a government that can make such a mess of a minor colonial war can also make a mess of disaster relief.
- ‘The only risk is if the Government make a mess of things and the stadium is not completed as planned,’ said Mr Hobbs.
- 2.1A person whose life is confused and full of problems: he needs treatment of some kind—he’s a real messMore example sentences
- All through my pregnancy I was so scared that I would lose it; I was in a real mess.
- Her boyfriend's just dumped her, she's a real mess.
- It shows that young Leftists are a real psychological mess - with VERY unhappy childhoods.
- 3A portion of semi-liquid food: a mess of mashed black beans and riceMore example sentences
- The manager looks at my plate - a mess of crumbled bread and glistening meat - and says Can I Help You in a tone that blames me for living.
- This sounds simple enough but the deeper flavours of the black cherries married magically with the creamy mess and light brioche bread.
- A foamy mess of soggy bread floated on top of a thick orange liquid.
- 4A building or room providing meals and recreational facilities for members of the armed forces: the sergeants' messMore example sentences
- The building will also house a mess room, locker rooms, kitchen, offices and an education suite complete with computer and reference books.
- You can assign me to clean the latrine or peel potatoes in the army mess, and I will be deriving a science out of it.
- They were often blamed for eating all the sandwiches before the other officers returned to mess at night.
- 5 (a mess of) North American • informal A large amount or quantity of: big-time outfits that do a mess of printingMore example sentences
- A mess of us will convene in San Diego for this year's Comic-Con International.
- Although there are some truly enjoyable moments, The Last Kiss is generally a mess of stories and lacks the heart that makes a romantic movie so memorable.
- I've eaten at Kam Han several times recently, both at lunch and dinner, as well as having ordered a mess of takeout, and the food has generally been very good.
verbBack to top
- 1 [with object] Make untidy or dirty: you’ve messed up my beautiful carpetMore example sentences
- I watched Danny's fingers as they trailed through my hair, completely messing my hairstyle, which had taken hours to do.
- She messed my already disorderly hair with her fingers.
- Hauser is about as bland as they come, robotically experiencing happiness, pain, and anger without ever messing his dyed hair or wrinkling his smoothed face.
- 1.1 [no object] (Of a domestic animal) defecate: they had some problems with dogs messing in the storeMore example sentences
- A member of Craven's dog control panel, Coun Polly English said: ‘If anyone sees a dog messing and they know the owner let me know and I will pass it on.’
- On one occasion we even offered a plastic bag to the owner of a Labrador whose dog had messed in the field, and all we got was a lot of abusive language!
- So Hazel does not like horses messing in the street, fearing a health hazard, but she drives a car.
- 1.2Make dirty by defecating: he feared he would mess the bedMore example sentences
- In fact, I am so frightened, I fear I might just mess my pants!
- Is it a strategy to not mess one's own pants?
- When he sees a muzzle-flash in his vision, he messes his pants before he falls dead or wounded.
mess with someone's head
- US • informal Make someone feel frustrated, anxious, or upset: he wasn’t about to let some goddamn punk mess with his headMore example sentences
- I think there is a real live monkey living in my computer and he messes with my head by dealing me hands that cannot be won.
- You know, anybody who's gone without sleep, even for just one night, knows that it can really sort of, you know, mess with your head.
- He had offseason ankle surgery, and though trainer Dave England says the ankle no longer is bothering Johnson, it may be messing with his head.
- Behave in a silly or playful way: he lay there snoring so I thought he was messing about and told him to get upMore example sentences
- Well I just thought it was silly girls messing about, that they had been drinking or something so I didn't think twice about it.
- We rang and messed around, recording silly messages of witty retorts to various ‘players’.
- The excitement was infectious and the adults too were to be seen sniggering over silly things, and messing about, being boys again.
- Spend time doing something in a pleasantly desultory way: messing about in boatsMore example sentences
potter about, amuse oneself, pass the time, do nothing very much, fiddle about/around, footle about/around, play about/around, fool about/around; fidget, toy, trifle, tamper, tinker, interfere, meddle, monkey (about/around)• informal piddle about/aroundBritish • informal muck about/around, lark (about/around), fanny about/around• vulgar slang frig about/around, fuck about/around
- Two years later, McCaleb is retired, popping 34 pills a day and spending his time messing around in a boat.
- Also, I had spent a happy childhood messing about in boats on the Solent.
- You know, I wrote a story about some children who spent their time messing about in boats in the Lake District.
mess about/around with
- Interfere with: the minister messed around with health, and look at the state we are inMore example sentences
- Once again Tone seems intent on radically messing around with institutions that, until he interfered, used to function reasonably well.
- The second burglary happened when a man knocked on the door and claiming some children had been messing around with roadworks outside.
- ‘My mum used to say, ‘Stop messing around with bits of paper and pencils and go outside and play with the other children’,’ he recalled.
- • informal Engage in an affair with (someone, especially the partner of another person): Steve was stark-staring paranoid jealous when it came to anyone messing about with his wife don’t mess with my wifeMore example sentences
- The main distinguishing feature of Lovecraft's Mythos is that anyone who messes around with the occult gets eaten by ghouls, driven insane or turned into a fishman.
- They were long and calloused at the fingertips from messing around with a guitar.
- And, even with you out of the scene and having (to a degree) accepted that that was the way things were going to be, the few girls that I did mess around with just didn't connect with me.
mess someone about/around
- British • informal Cause someone problems, especially by acting unfairly or indecisively: get your own back—make him sorry he ever messed you about!More example sentences
- Sorry to mess you around, but I am not in the office again today so will not be able to make the meeting.
- Yeah that's great, look I'm sorry for messing you about but when you said you couldn't do the half I only brought enough money for a point.
- People are concerned, but the feeling is we have been messed about for over ten years.
- • informal Mishandle a situation: I really messed upMore example sentences
mismanage, mishandle, misdirect, misgovern, misconduct, bungle, botch, fluff, fumble, mess up, mar, spoil, ruin, wreck
- It's an extremely messed up situation when one innocent man has to die to protect others.
- It messes up your health, screws up your lungs and eats you away inside.
- It just messes up an already messed up situation.
mess someone up
- • informal Cause someone emotional or psychological problems.More example sentences
- Anorexia and Bulimia are eating disorders that can really mess you up, even kill you!
- As even the teen recognizes, it will just mess him up emotionally.
- Anyways, we got in really early, which shows you just how badly the traffic messes you up.
- US Inflict violence or injury on someone: the wreck messed him up so much that he can’t walkMore example sentences
- Don't even start with me, because I will mess you up.
- ‘I'm gonna mess you up,’ he said to Rock as they squared off in the final sequence.
- The fight with that new watchman really messed him up.
mess something up
- • informal Spoil something by inept handling: an error like that could easily mess up an entire day’s workMore example sentences
bungle, botch, fluff, fumble, make a mess of, mismanage, mishandle, misdirect, misgovern, misconduct, mar, spoil, ruin, mangle, wreck
- Jessica figured Michael knew his choreography like the back of his hand to ever mess it up too easily.
- ‘It's very stressful,’ Nieh says, ‘because if I mess it up, the magic is spoiled for the audience.’
- He also said he had no problems staying on, but that some of his plans were messed up as a result.
- • informal Meddle or interfere with: stop messing with things you don’t understandMore example sentences
- He would regret messing with me and interfering with the master's plans!
- They all knew that Jordan still liked me, and no guy was going to mess with me if Jordan interfered.
- If we're really serious about the nation's health then let's tackle the big issues first and stop messing with the small pleasures of many of our citizens.
Middle English: from Old French mes 'portion of food', from late Latin missum 'something put on the table', past participle of mittere 'send, put'. The original sense was 'a serving of (semi-liquid) food', later 'liquid food for an animal'; this gave rise (early 19th century) to the senses 'unappetizing concoction' and 'predicament', on which sense 1 is based. In late Middle English the term also denoted any of the small groups into which the company at a banquet was divided (who were served from the same dishes); hence, 'a group who regularly eat together' (recorded in military use from the mid 16th century).