Definition of mayhem in English:
- Police say they are winning the war against violent drunks who cause mayhem in the West End of the city at weekends.
- High spirits often get out of control and lead to violence and mayhem.
- What unfolds is a riot of comic mayhem as mistaken identity leads to uproarious farce throughout.
Between the 15th and 19th centuries mayhem was a crime which involved maiming a person so that they could no longer defend themselves. In origin the word is a form of maim (Middle English), which came through French but whose ultimate origin is unknown. The modern sense ‘violent or extreme disorder’ originated in the USA in the 19th century.
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