Definitions

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

  • noun Law The criminal offense of willfully maiming, disabling, or disfiguring a person.
  • noun Infliction of violent injury on a person or thing; wanton destruction.
  • noun A state of violent disorder or riotous confusion; havoc.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun At common law, a crime consisting in the violent doing of a bodily hurt to another person, such as renders him less able in fighting either to defend himself or to annoy his adversary, as distinguished from one which merely disfigures. See maim.

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

  • noun (Law) The maiming of a person by depriving him of the use of any of his members which are necessary for defense or protection. See maim.
  • noun Violent disorder, especially such as causes serious harm to persons or damage to property.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun A state or situation of great confusion, disorder, trouble or destruction; chaos.
  • noun Infliction of violent injury on a person or thing.
  • noun law The maiming of a person by depriving him of the use of any of his limbs which are necessary for defense or protection.
  • noun law The crime of damaging things or harming people on purpose.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun violent and needless disturbance
  • noun the willful and unlawful crippling or mutilation of another person

Etymologies

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

[Middle English maim, mayhem, from Anglo-Norman maihem, from Old French mahaigne, injury, from mahaignier, to maim, from Vulgar Latin *mahanāre, probably of Germanic origin.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Middle English mayme, mahaime, from Anglo-Norman mahaim ("mutilation"), from Old French mahaign ("bodily harm, loss of limb"), from Germanic, from Proto-Germanic *maidijanan (“to cripple, injure”) (compare Middle High German meidem, meiden 'gelding', Old Norse meiða 'to injure', Gothic 𐌼𐌰𐌹𐌳𐌾𐌰𐌽 maidjan 'to alter, falsify'), from Proto-Indo-European *mei (“to change”). More at mad. The original meaning referred to the crime of maiming, the other senses derived from this.

Examples

Comments

Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • Here, we're still trying to cope with our februaryhem. We'll worry about mayhem in May.

    February 17, 2008

  • "A storm of smoldering intensity and lightning-quick reflexes, Mayhem unleashes waves of devastation through the ranks of even the most battle-hardened opponents."

    (Official biography on the NBC American Gladiators website)

    September 6, 2008

  • cf maim

    September 6, 2008

  • For a word that means chaos and violence, "mayhem" is actually a rather tidy and dignified pair of syllables. With a capital M, Mayhem looks to me like the name of a small village in the English countryside, the kind of place that where you'd find carefully-trimmed window boxes and an interesting selection of doilies.

    June 9, 2012