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

  • n. Confused, hand-to-hand fighting in a pitched battle.
  • n. A violent free-for-all. See Synonyms at brawl.
  • n. A confused tumultuous mingling, as of a crowd: the rush-hour melee.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Hand-to-hand combat; mano a mano.
  • n. A naval or armor battle at an abnormally close range, extending even to disorganized crowds of people or traffic jams, using no ammunition.
  • n. A noisy or heated fight, argument or scrap
  • v. to physically hit, as opposed to shooting or blowing up.


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

French mêlée, from Old French meslee, past participle of mesler, to mix; see meddle.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Borrowed from French mêlée, from Old French meslee, feminine past participle of mesler ("to mix"), derived from Latin misceō ("mix").



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  • Melee

    Additional usage:

    Noun, Broadly Hand-to-hand combat (rare)

    Adjective of or related to hand-to-hand combat

    Examples sentences:

    "I've been playing Arcanum a lot, my main character is a level 35 melee fighter technologist."

    "Sulik from Fallout 2 is great at melee."

    "I use many different melee weapons, but my favorite has to be the Super Sledgehammer."

    "Jaheira from Baldur's Gate is a pretty decent melee character who can effectively facilitate her performance in hand-to-hand combat with her druid spells."


    This usage has been around for more than 2 decades, usually in RPG video games, tabletop war games, some card games and as part of discussions related to these.

    Many gamers (including ex-gamers) are familiar with this usage and would use the word "melee" this way.

    October 23, 2009

  • The others were shocked at this shameful disgrace

    At the end of an honoured career

    He paused in the silence to pull down his tie

    And observe the melee.

    (Take your carriage clock and shove it, by Belle and Sebastian)

    November 13, 2008

  • This is one of those words that I don't know the preferred pronunciation so I will alternate between the two most common, unknowingly.

    January 9, 2008

  • Let's call the whole thing off. ;->

    January 8, 2008

  • Some say mee-LEE, I say meh-LAY.

    January 8, 2008

  • Merriam Webster's Third International gives five pronunciations, so appropriately it's a free-for-all. Just don't pronounced it Millay, as in Edna St. Vincent.

    January 8, 2008

  • Is that an acute fling or a grave fling? ;->

    January 8, 2008

  • Any words that have accents and little pointy hats and other stuff are bound to lose those in the move to more common usage in English. We don't like us no pointy-hatted Franche words.

    I can't say which is "more" or "less" correct. I was just wondering if anyone had listed the version with the accent on it--which I will now call a fling because that's the noise it makes in my brain when I write one--and then discovered that yeah, I listed it. *sheepish*

    January 8, 2008

  • I don't think it's a question of degree of correctness. It almost depends on which dictionary you're checking. Apparently several pronunciations are correct (according to several dictionaries).

    C_b: I've also seen it as mêlée in some references.

    January 8, 2008

  • but which is more correct? Oddly, I think the French pronounciation emphasizes both syllables, which makes it sound like there is more emphasis on the second syllable (to our American ears).

    January 8, 2008

  • Why am I not surprised that you have stage-combat buddies, chained_bear?

    January 8, 2008

  • All my stage-combat buddies say it the way I do: MEH-lay (or MAY-lay, if you have trouble imagining that).

    Edit: Isn't it actually melée? (Not to be too much of a fussbudget.)

    January 8, 2008

  • I pronounce it like may-lay but I know a lot of people who pronounce it mee-lee which just sounds plain wrong.

    January 8, 2008

  • how do you guys pronounce it?

    January 8, 2008

  • Fight! Fight! Fight!

    November 23, 2007