from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A cluttered, untidy, usually dirty place or condition.
  • noun Something that is disorderly or dirty, as a accumulation or heap.
  • noun A confused, troubling, or embarrassing condition or situation.
  • noun One that is in such a condition.
  • noun An amount of food, as for a meal, course, or dish.
  • noun A serving of soft, semiliquid food.
  • noun A group of people, usually soldiers or sailors, who regularly eat meals together.
  • noun Food or a meal served to such a group.
  • noun A mess hall.
  • intransitive verb To make disorderly or dirty.
  • intransitive verb To cause or make a mess.
  • intransitive verb To intrude; interfere.
  • intransitive verb To take a meal in a military mess.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To share a mess; eat in company with others or as a member of a mess; take a meal with any other person: as, I will mess with you to-day.
  • To supply with a mess: as, to mess cattle.
  • To sort in messes for the table, as meat.
  • noun A disorderly mixture or jumble of things; a state of dirt and disorder: as, the house was in a mess.
  • noun A situation of confusion, disorder, or embarrassment; a muddle: as, to get one's self into a mess.
  • To make a mess of; disorder, soil, or dirty.
  • To muddle; throw into confusion: as, he messes the whole business.
  • noun An obsolete form of mass
  • noun A supply or provision of anything to be eaten at one meal; a quantity of food sufficient for one or more persons for a single occasion: as, a mess of peas for dinner; a mess of oats for a horse.
  • noun In fishing, the amount or number of fish taken; the take or haul of fish.
  • noun A number of persons who eat together at the same table; especially, a group of officers or men in the army or navy who regularly take their meals in company.
  • noun A set of four; any group of four persons or things: originally as a convenient subdivision of a numerous company at dinner, a practice still maintained in the London inns of court.
  • Mass. See by the mass, under mass.
  • noun An obsolete form of mace.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun obsolete Mass; church service.
  • transitive verb To supply with a mess.
  • transitive verb To make a mess{5} of; to disorder or muddle; to muss; to jumble; to disturb; to mess up.
  • intransitive verb To take meals with a mess; to belong to a mess; to eat (with others).
  • noun 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 a beast at one time.
  • noun A number of persons who eat together, and for whom food is prepared in common; especially, persons in the military or naval service who eat at the same table.
  • noun obsolete A set of four; -- from the old practice of dividing companies into sets of four at dinner.
  • noun U.S. The milk given by a cow at one milking.
  • noun colloq. A disagreeable mixture or confusion of things; hence, a situation resulting from blundering or from misunderstanding.


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[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.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Middle English mes, Old French mets, Late Latin missum,, from mittere ("to put, place") (e.g. on the table), Latin mittere ("to send"). See mission, and compare Mass ("religious service").

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Perhaps a corruption of Middle English mesh ("for mash"), compare muss.


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