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

  • A scene or condition of complete disorder or ruin: "The economy was in a shambles” ( W. Bruce Lincoln).
  • Great clutter or jumble; a total mess: made dinner and left the kitchen a shambles.
  • A place or scene of bloodshed or carnage.
  • A scene or condition of great devastation.
  • A slaughterhouse.
  • Archaic A meat market or butcher shop.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. a scene of great disorder or ruin
  • n. a great mess or clutter
  • n. a scene of bloodshed, carnage or devastation
  • n. a slaughterhouse
  • n. a butcher's shop
  • v. Third-person singular simple present indicative form of shamble.

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

  • n. a condition of great disorder
  • n. a building where animals are butchered


From Middle English shamel, shambil, place where meat is butchered and sold, from Old English sceamol, table, from Latin scabillum, scamillum, diminutive of scamnum, bench, stool.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Old English scamul. A borrowing from Vulgar Latin scamellum, diminutive of Latin scamnum ("bench"). (Wiktionary)



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

  • "A stone post rose in the midst, to which the oxen had formerly been tied for baiting with dogs to make them tender before they were killed in the adjoining shambles. --Thomas Hardy, The Mayor of Casterbridge

    February 22, 2012

  • I liked this word anyway but a colleague has just told me that it is also the name for a drink consisting of champagne mixed with Red Bull, which I've never had but which sounds like a deadly combination, and which would be entirely deserving of this name.

    July 18, 2008